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Monday, August 24, 2020

President Trump Appeals Twitter Case to the U.S. Supreme Court

Last Thursday, President Trump filed a petition for leave to appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a previous ruling by an appeals court that found his actions in blocking and banning users on Twitter to be in violation of the First Amendment. You can read the petition here.

The question that President Trump is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to answer is this:

Whether the First Amendment deprives a government official of his right to control his personal Twitter account by blocking third-party accounts if he uses that personal account in part to announce official actions and policies.

You may recall that we have reported on this case on Municipal Minute before, including a summary of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against President Trump. You can read the Second Circuit's decision in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump hereThat ruling determined that because the President had used his @RealDonaldTrump Twitter account to discuss government business and report on and even take official actions, it was considered a public forum for purposes of the First Amendment. As a result, his banning and blocking individuals solely because of their critical speech violated their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The petition to the Supreme Court contains much of the same arguments made at the court of appeals level. The petition includes a summary that argues that the court of appeals ruling was in error because it "blurs the line between state action and private conduct" and ignores the critical distinction between the President's official statements on his personal Twitter account and his personal decision to block users from his account. The result, the President argues, is to jeopardize the right of public officials from the President to local village councilpersons to insulate their personal social media accounts from harassment, trolling, or hate speech. A similar argument was made to, and rejected by, the court of appeals which determined that because the President had so intertwined his official speech and actions on his personal Twitter account, it became a protected space for users to criticize and engage in other protected speech.

We had been monitoring this case to see if it would be appealed, and will certainly keep our readers advised as to the next steps, including whether the Supreme Court will grant the petition and hear this case. 


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