It’s no news that Donald Trump is arguably the most controversial president ever in US history and that includes the Monica Lewinsky versus Bill Clinton fiasco and Richard Nixon’s suspected involvement in burgling the Watergate Complex in Washington.
Using his twitter handle @realDonaldTrump as his pedestal, he constantly doles his thoughts on subject matters ranging from African immigrants to the wall between the US and Mexico.His responses to criticism follow the same path of blocking the accounts responsible. We can only guess the 45th American president is taking the quote ‘See no evil (in this case, criticism), hear no criticism’ a little too seriously. He also seems to disregard the last clause of ‘speaking no evil (in this case, criticism)’.
The American people, and the public at large decided to seek legal action against the president’s constant bullying behaviour on Twitter. According to one twitter user, “If he says bullshit, he should be ready to be criticized for saying bullshit”. Trump had been sued by the the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of multiple Twitter users for blocking them after they critiqued him for his supposedly ‘free’ speech on Twitter. His blocking them, they argued, was in clear unconstitutional violation of the first amendment, which prevents congress from restricting free exercise of freedom of speech, of establishing a religion or abridging the press’s free speech or the right of the people to arguably assemble, and petition the Government.
Rightly so, Twitter serves as platform to indeed petition and question Donald Trump’s sometimes controversial statements.
U.S. District Judge Reice Buchwald ruled that Trump’s actions were indeed unconstitutional, as Twitter is a public forum.
The ruling read:
“We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account — the ‘interactive space’ where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets — are properly analyzed under the ‘public forum’ doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.
In so holding, we reject the defendants’ contentions that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the President’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs.”
The court described “the Cyber Age” as “a revolution of historic proportions” that may “alter how we think, express ourselves, and define who we want to be.”
The main aim of Knight Institute v. Trump is not to alter how anybody thinks but to place emphasis on the fact that Twitter is a forum that Trump regularly uses to conduct the business of government. He therefore cannot, in consistency with the Constitution, block users from engaging with his tweets on the basis of their political views. Mark Joseph Stern in his article for Slate says “There’s no reason this well-established principle should not apply robustly to a president who has decided to make and enforce federal law through Twitter”.
With an unflattering amount of capital letters, exclamation points and spelling errors, and from his crude comments on family separation policies to slamming CNN, name – calling North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and his famous(now deleted) ‘covfefe’ tweet, Trump’s use of social media especially Twitter has definitely elicited a wide range of reactions from his audience. This ruling is an extraordinary victory for free speech, and is bound to staunch Trump’s efforts to prevent his critics from engaging him online. It also goes to confirm that @realDonaldTrump doesn’t speak as a private citizen, but in his official capacity as president of the United States of America, and should therefore be held accountable for all his statements.