President Donald Trump’s administration is asking the Supreme Court to decide whether the president can block critics on Twitter after courts have ruled that he can’t.
The Justice Department’s request on Thursday is the latest movement of a case that goes back to 2017. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed a lawsuit arguing that Trump couldn’t block critical Twitter users because it violated their First Amendment rights.
Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision that Trump blocking critics was unconstitutional.
Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote at the time that the court found that a public official who utilizes a social media account for “all manner of official purposes” couldn’t block constituents because “they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”
The Trump administration on Thursday argued that those blocked by Trump could still see his tweets if they were not logged into their accounts, and that the ruling opened Trump up to “harassment, trolling, or hate speech.”
“The decision of the court of appeals warrants this Court’s review,” the department argued. “By ignoring the critical distinction between the President’s (sometimes) official statements on Twitter and his always personal decision to block respondents from his own account, the opinion blurs the line between state action and private conduct—notwithstanding this Court’s repeated and recent exhortations to heed that line carefully in applying the First Amendment.”
However, the Knight Foundation is urging the Supreme Court to reject the Trump administration’s position.
“This case stands for a principle that is fundamental to our democracy: government officials can’t suppress speech simply because they disagree with its message,” Knight First Amendment Institute Executive Director Jameel Jaffer said in a video posted on Twitter. “The Supreme Court should reject the White House’s petition and leave the appeals court’s decision in place.”
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