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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Has Twitter become an official tool of government?

It is fair to say that Donald Trump has revolutionised the way that Twitter is used by politicians. That has nor always been a good thing. Although he has been able to speak directly to more that 52 million people, his utterances have not always been coherent, whilst the opprobrium he has attracted in return is often unrepeatable in mixed company or indeed any company.

What has surprised many people is how he has managed to avoid plunging the United States into a war through his tweets. After all he is a sitting President who speaks for the nation. He did after all threaten North Korea with nuclear war and shared prejudiced messages from a far-right British party.

Even Theresa May has been forced to gently scold him for his misrepresentations of the UK on twitter. And let's not even get started on his defence of guns in the wake of yet more mass-shootings in the USA. Twitter is not just a means of communication for Trump, it is a fantasy world he inhabits so as to avoid awkward facts.

Now, all of this controversy has come back to bite the United States President with a ruling by a Federal Judge that Donald Trump cannot block critics on Twitter as doing so violates their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

As the Independent reports, the ruling from Judge Naomi Buchwald said that discussions arising from Mr Trump's tweets should be considered a public forum, as the messages are “governmental in nature":

Judge Buchwald rejected an argument from the Department of Justice that Mr Trump's own rights under the First Amendment allowed him to block people with whom he did not want to interact with.

Blocking users “as a result of the political views they have expressed is impermissible under the First Amendment,” Judge Buchwald wrote in the order, adding the president cannot use Twitter in a way “that infringes on the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him”.

The paper says that the judge stopped short of directly ordering Mr Trump, or those who work for him, to unblock users, saying it was not necessary to enter a “legal thicket” involving the power court can hold over the president. They add that the lawsuit also named Mr Trump's social media director, Dan Scavino, as a defendant:

“Because no government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary has said what the law is, we must assume that the president and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional,” she wrote.

So there we have it. Donald Trump's twitter feed is officially an organ of the United States Government. God help us all.
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