White House Blocks Twitter Account In Apparent Violation Of Court Order

President Donald Trump and the White House appear to have violated a 2019 federal court order that it cannot block twitter accounts from the official White House account, @realDonaldTrump, based in the content of its tweets.  The account, @realDonaldTrFan, has over 313,000 followers and savages the President regularly with parodies. If the site was blocked as reported, the action would be a flagrant disregarding of the authority of the federal courts.

The banned site made fun of Trump saying that he he was now taking Hydroxychloroquine:

Donald J. Trump          ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ@realDonaldTrFan

President Trump blocked the Parody Trump twitter account @realDonaldTrFan, even though the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the 1st Amendment forbids Trump from using Twitter’s Block Feature. Is this PROOF that Hydroxychloroquine causes mental confusion in Low-IQ Presidents?

View image on Twitter

The action is precisely what the Second Circuit described as a core violation of the First Amendment.

In that case, Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump, the Second Circuit easily established that the White House account is an official public account, archived with other official material, and operated by public employees.  The Supreme Court has held that “public forums are places that the government has opened for use by the public as a place for expressive activity.” Denver Area Educ. Telecommunications Consortium, Inc. v. F.C.C., 518 U.S. 727, 749 (1996) (plurality opinion). Likewise, in Manhattan Community Access Corp. et al. v. Halleck et al., 587 U.S. __ 8 (2019) the Court stated that “When the government provides a forum for speech (known as a public forum), the government may be constrained by the First Amendment, meaning that the government ordinarily may not exclude speech or speakers from the forum on the basis of viewpoint . . . .”

While the President insisted that this was his private account, the court noted that “[a]t oral argument, however, the government conceded that the Account is not ‘independent of [Trump’s] presidency,’ choosing instead to argue only that the act of blocking was not state action.”  There were other determinative concessions: “The President concedes that he blocked the Individual Plaintiffs because they posted tweets that criticized him or his policies.  He also concedes that such criticism is protected speech.”

The question then became a simple one: the right of the President to exclude citizens from public spaces due to their criticism of his policies.  For those of us in the civil liberties and free speech communities, the ruling was an important reaffirmation of core constitutional values.  The White House was wrong to bar the accounts and the Justice Department was working against our defining free speech principles in the litigation.

The Second Circuit held:

“If the Account is a forum—public or otherwise—viewpoint discrimination 9 is not permitted.  … A blocked account is prevented from viewing any of the President’s tweets, replying to those tweets, retweeting them, or liking them.  Replying, retweeting, 15 and liking are all expressive conduct that blocking inhibits.  Replying and retweeting are messages that a user broadcasts, and, as such, undeniably are speech.  Liking a tweet conveys approval or acknowledgment of a tweet and is 18 therefore a symbolic message with expressive content.  … Significantly, the parties agree that all of this expressive conduct is communicated to the thousands of users who interact with the Account.  By blocking the Individual Plaintiffs and preventing them from viewing, retweeting, replying to, and liking his tweets, the President excluded the Individual Plaintiffs from a public forum, something the First Amendment prohibits.”

The Second Circuit concluded with a reaffirmation of the free speech principles often stated on this blog and other free speech sites that the solution to bad speech is more speech:  “In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less.”

There is obviously a right to monitor comments on sites, including government sites, though the range of such regulation is more abridged when done by the government. This site for example reserves the right to remove personal threats as well as clearly racist, anti-Semitic, and other offensive comments. We tend to err on the side of not removing comments given the free speech emphasis on the site.  The issue is more acute when the government is creating a public forum but removing those who protest or criticize its policies.  It is hard to imagine how a court would tolerate such censorship under the sweeping arguments of the White House. It would allow the government to create new forms of public forums to engage in raw censorship.

Strangely, the unwarranted and unconstitutional action of the White House will only serve to draw more people to this site and encourage more such parodies on the White House site.  Given the massive size of the White House site, it is bizarre that the President or his aides would even care about a droplet in an ocean of tweets. Moreover, the President can (and often does) respond in kind. That is the wonderful thing about free speech: it contains its own corrective element with more speech.

This would appear a flagrant violation of both the earlier court order and the First Amendment. After the opinion, blocking decisions should have been subject to a careful process laid out by the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s office in light of the earlier decision. Hopefully, there will be corrective action from the White House and an immediate demand for injunctive relief.

55 thoughts on “White House Blocks Twitter Account In Apparent Violation Of Court Order”

  1. I have noticed that under Trump’s twitter account there are several other specific twitter accounts that almost always appear as the 1st couple of comments and they are always attacking the President.
    So my question would be, is Twitter in violation of the 1st amendment since it floats the same hate filled raging anti-Trump idiots to the top of the reply list every time, and thus, ignores all others good chance of being seen and heard.
    I’d say yes, Twitter is in violation, and has purposefully manipulated their response to Trump algorithm so their favorite hate filled Trump bashers rise to the top of the response cue, every time, and have therefore broached the rights of other 1st amendment practitioners by limiting their views, retweets, and likes.

  2. When Trump blocks someone. … he hasnt abridged their right to speak, he has simply enforced his right to not listen. His blocking does not keep the poster from using Twitter, it doesnt keep him from speaking in the public sphere. It simply keeps him from directly addressing the President.

  3. Wait, I thought Twitter was built on the principle of blocking abusive people… or even people you just don’t like. Does anyone honestly think the question of whether or not Trump can block people on Twitter rises to the level of constitutional concern?

    Its just more “throw everything at the wall to see what sticks” attacking Trump, this affects no ones life in the least.

    Prole feed for CNN lemmings.

  4. Jonathan,

    Remember, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on this 1st Amendment Twitter issue, is NOT the final say in this matter….

    Trump is calling their bluff and if they want to appeal, then go for it……

  5. I agree that President Trump should not block trolls from his official White House Twitter account. Rules for blocking and removal should be clearly stated on the site, and be narrow, such as death threats. I’m not sure if posts with curse words could be blocked.

    It is interesting timing. Is Twitter a public forum, or a private publisher? If it is a private publisher, then it can censor content. However, social media advertises itself as a public forum. I wonder if this case will help the many lawsuits that conservatives have lodged against Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and even Google for censorship. In addition, if they are going to be platforms for the Democratic Party, they need to be honest about that. Pretending to be open to the public is false advertising, as there is clear political bias against conservatives.

    This could either be a silly, minor obstacle that President Trump strewed in his path, or an existential fight as to whether any individual has the right to censor their own page, even if they are the President. Personally, I think Trump should ignore the trolls.

    1. Twitter wants it both ways – so do the activist lib left courts and the raging Trump haters.
      It’s long past time Twitter and the other leftist social arms are crushed under for their blatantly illegal bias. TOS has never been equally applied on Twitter. Their hit list is already out, so any denial is a lie.
      I suppose this is part and parcel of how a republic turns into a one party tyranny.
      Same way the IRS crushed the Tea Party movement, literally, they destroyed it.
      Republicans and Trumpsters had better wake up soon, because if they don’t their destruction is imminent as well.

  6. Samples from the parody account:

    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 19
    President Trump blocked the Parody Trump twitter account
    @realDonaldTrFan
    , even though the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the 1st Amendment forbids Trump from using Twitter’s Block Feature. Is this PROOF that Hydroxychloroquine causes mental confusion in Low-IQ Presidents?
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 18
    I’ve been taking #hydroxychloriquine! Fox’s Neil Cavuto says I should stop! He’s an idiot! He says it could kill me! Wrong! The VA study looked at diffrent ways the drug killed veterans! NOT PRESIDENTS! I’M NOT A VETERAN! So that drug can’t kill me!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 17
    Fake news says I should ware a mask… WRONG! I don’t need a mask!! I have a letter!!! A very nice letter! From a VERY expensive doctor – that says I have “Bone Spurs” – which will PREVENT ME from getting Coronavirus!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 16
    ITS OBAMAGATE! – NOT TRUMPGATE! People are now accusing ME of the same crimes that I accused Obama of committing! THAT’S RIDICOULOUS! I WASN’T EVEN ALIVE IN 1960! I DON’T OWN A GOAT! And NO ONE –NOT EVEN THE FAKE NEWS – has been able to PROVE that I’m still a member of the KKK!!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 11
    Did you see my press confrence? I WAS SO GOOD! I made up NEW facts that NO ONE has ever made up before! NOBODY could believe MY new facts!!
    #TrumpPressConference
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 8
    After it was reveeled that I was exposed to Coronavirus, SOMEBODY on my personal staff has been leaving household disinfectants, cups of ice, and syringes outside my bedroom door!! It may have been MY Secret Service agent Dave – WHO I HATE! But whoever it is- THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 7
    JUST FOUND OUT THAT MY PERSONAL VALET TESTED POSATIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS!!! NO ONE KNOWS IF I’VE BEEN EXPOSED!! I saw him when he was asmpytomatic! Why would he come to work when he was asmpytomatic? IDIOT! This is the WORST DAY IN AMERICAN HISTORY!!!!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 6
    Do nothing Democrats are keeping their Blue states like Michagan & Pencilvania closed! Sad! While MY Red States are opening!! But it’s NOT FAIR for MY re-election because more Democrats will be alive in November! This is why we need early voting for MY supporters in Red States!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 5
    I fired Dr. Bright, the director who “wanted” to develop a coronavirus vaccine, because he kept trying to warn ME about the virus in Janurary!!! But because I’m a Genious (and stable) – I already KNEW the virus was a hoax! His warnings were USELESS! Great example of Bad judgment!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 4
    VERY UPSET that Pulitzer Prize winners were anounced and I DIDN’T win! I entered MY name OVER 700 times! And I wasn’t picked!? Drawing was totally RIGGED!! Some Journalists won it! How many times did they enter there names?! UNFAIR because journalists have access to photocopiers!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 3
    Countrys like Italy, Porto Rico, and Africa have less Coronavirus cases then the USA. China is laughing at US! But if you re-elect ME in November, I PROMISE to start work on fixing this virus thing! Jared Kushner will help!! NEW CURES! NEW Drugs! NEW Household products to drink!
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    May 2
    Totally not fare that other politicians are getting press coverage about alleged sexual misconduct! I SHOULD BE THE ONE GETTING THE PRESS COVERAGE! TWENTY THREE Women accused ME of sexual misconduct AND assault! AND ONLY 2 OF THEM ARE LYING! Where’s MY press coverage!?
    Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
    @realDonaldTrFan
    ·
    Apr 25
    North Korea’s Kim Jong Un – who Loves ME very much – is NOT dead! He’s just in a Vegetative State! Which is no big deel! I go into Vegetative States all the time!!
    #KIMJONGUNDEAD

    ———

    Hilarious. Keep ’em coming.

      1. Plenty more where those came from:

        https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrFan

        Donald J. Trump ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ
        @realDonaldTrFan

        Good news! MY New re-election strategy is to blame President Obama! He’s Grossly IMCOMPETENT! Over 1.5 million Americans infected! 93,000 died! Not enough virus tests! No National Plan for disinfectant injections! Federal government response is AWFUL! Yet Obama does NOTHING! Sad!

        5:36 PM · May 20, 2020·Twitter Web App

        ________

        Jonathan Turley tweeted this recently, and gets it right, again:

        https://twitter.com/JonathanTurley/status/1263202201981370375

        “…I now see why Dr. Seuss said “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.” We are in the midst of a pandemic and facing an economic meltdown that may create a lost generation. Yet, our leaders are still at recess tossing insults as we all wait for the class bell. ” -Jonathan Turley

  7. The Republicans ruled that this one President does not have to follow laws or rules. If the President wants to yell fire in a theater, knowing that there is no fire, so be it. DJT is the Dear Leader, the Stable Genius, the one who knows more than the generals, the one who knew it was a pandemic before it was called a pandemic. The all knowing, never wrong stable genius does NOT have to follow any rules or morals or laws that he doesn’t want too. That court and the judge should be thrown in jail for following the law, and not putting DJT above any rule or law. And by the way, get rid of that G##D### piece of paper in the National Archives in DC. His job would be a whole lot easier if he didn’t have to preserve, protect and defend that useless G##D### piece of paper. Lock it up next to his political enemies, and anyone who disagrees. DJT does not need it’s services anymore. Nor do we.

  8. TRUMP’S TWEET THIS MORNING..

    CONVEYED FALSE INFORMATION ABOUT MAIL-IN VOTING

    President Trump on Wednesday escalated his rhetorical campaign against an expansion of mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic by threatening federal funding to two states with Democratic governors.

    Trump appeared to be set off by an announcement the day before from Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, who said her office will mail an absentee ballot application to every voter in the state for August and November elections.

    In a tweet Wednesday, Trump falsely claimed the state was sending ballots, not ballot applications, and said its federal funding was at risk. The president wrote: “I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”

    Donald J. Trump

    @realDonaldTrump
    Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!..

    108K
    4:51 AM – May 20, 2020

    In a subsequent tweet, Trump made a similar threat to Nevada, which is mailing absentee ballots to all active registered voters for the state’s June 9 primary — an all-mail election.

    Elections are run by state and local governments, and it’s unclear what legal means Trump would have to withhold funds from the states.

    Benson, the Michigan secretary of state, responded to Trump’s tweet noting that a number of states are taking the same action, including states with Republican election officials. In a statement, she added that absentee ballot “applications are mailed nearly every election cycle by both major parties and countless advocacy and nonpartisan organizations.”

    Jocelyn Benson

    @JocelynBenson
    Hi! 👋🏼 I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson. And we sent applications, not ballots. Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.

    Trump’s comments come two days after Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said she’s fine with absentee ballot applications.

    When asked by a reporter on a call Monday what she thought about proposals to send absentee ballot applications to all voters, she said: “Personally, I don’t really have an issue with absentee ballot request forms being sent out to voters as much as ballots being sent directly to voters. … We are really against, when people talk about mail-in voting, the ballots being sent directly to people who may or may not want them or sent to all the registered voters even when their voter rolls have not been cleaned up.”

    Trump’s objections come despite the fact that he voted by mail in Florida’s recent primary and has voted absentee in previous elections.

    Edited from: “Trump Repeats Unfounded Claims About Mail-In Voting, Threatens Funding To 2 States”

    Today’s NPR

    1. REGARDING ABOVE:

      Here Trump not only makes false assertions but clearly implies that vote fraud could be rampant with mail-in ballots; an utterly baseless claim.

      The article goes on to note that Wisconsin may have seen as many as 71 Coronavirus infections related to its primary election last month. Yet here Trump displays a willingness to expose the American public to increased infections by demanding in-person voting this November.

      The above Tweet is an example of how Trump’s irresponsible use of Twitter has created waves of disinformation.

  9. Trump probably has MUTED a lot of people that throw crap at him. Frankly, it would be better if he was allowed as an individual to block trolls, who mess up the twitter feed of his tweets and legitimate discourse, even polite disagreement.
    President Trump has an official twitter handle @POTUS. This one as official US President twitter handle, sure, the court can require that no one be blocked from that one.
    His personal one @realDonaldTrump I do not understand why he as an individual cannot block anyone he pleases.

    1. I agree. I think the Judiciary made the wrong call on this one. If there is an official account, that’s where the protected speech under the First Amendment and public forum regulations applies, but not with individual accounts, even if they belong to public official. It’s a troubling precedent.

Leave a Reply to FishWings Cancel reply