“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” declared Judge Barrington Parker in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against President Donald Trump for blocking critics from his Twitter account. The Second Circuit’s ruling upheld the decision of a district court.
This rather confusing ruling has opened the door for more lawsuits, as demonstrated by an almost immediate suit against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for her similar practice of blocking people from her Twitter account.
There are several issues here — some of which the court addressed and others it indicated it would intentionally avoid. The first and biggest was the question of First Amendment rights, specifically the free-speech rights of all Americans. The court noted that government officials are not allowed to prevent individuals’ access to publicly presented information, nor may public officials prevent private individuals from speaking freely on that information. Essentially, the court asserted that Twitter was a public forum because Trump was using it as such.
This, however, is the crux of the issue: Twitter is a private company that explicitly notes in its user agreement that it holds full authority over whatever content a user may place on its platform.