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Law School Case Brief

Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Trump - 928 F.3d 226 (2d Cir. 2019)

Rule:

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.

Facts:

President Donald J. Trump appealed from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York concluding that he engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by utilizing Twitter's "blocking" function to limit certain users' access to his social media account, which is otherwise open to the public at large, because he disagrees with their speech.

Issue:

Does the First Amendment 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?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The Court held that the entry of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs was affirmed since the President of the United States engaged in unconstitutional conduct by utilizing a blocking function to limit certain users' access to his social media account, he violated the First Amendment by engaging in viewpoint discrimination, the account was not a private, personal account that was independent of the presidency, once the President chose the platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he could not selectively exclude those whose views he disagreed with, the President's use of the account during his presidency was not private, he was acting in his official capacity when he blocked users, since the account was intentionally opened for public discussion, it was a public forum, the retweets, replies, and likes of other users were not government speech.

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