Trump challenges court ruling barring him from blocking Twitter users

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is challenging a federal appeals court decision that ruled he violated the U.S. Constitution by blocking people whose views he disliked from his Twitter account.

FILE PHOTO: The masthead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s @realDonaldTrump Twitter account with a message about OPEC policy is seen on April 20, 2018. @realDonaldTrump/Handout via REUTERS

In court papers filed late Friday by the U.S. Justice Department, Trump sought a rehearing by the full 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, calling the 3-0 decision “fundamentally misconceived.”

Trump has more than 63 million followers on Twitter, and often uses his account to make significant announcements, including Friday when his tweets about trade with China sent U.S. stock and oil prices down sharply.

The three-judge panel last month upheld a May 2018 lower court ruling that forced Trump to unblock several dozen followers.

Twitter Inc and the White House did not immediately comment.

In the appellate court ruling, Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote, “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.”

White House social media director Dan Scavino, who was also a defendant, is also challenging the appeals court ruling.

The Justice Department court filing on Friday warned that if the appeals court ruling was upheld, that “public officials who address matters relating to their public office on personal accounts will run the risk that every action taken on that account will be state action subject to constitutional scrutiny.”

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Parker, however, had said Trump’s account bears “all the trappings of an official, state-run account” and is “one of the White House’s main vehicles for conducting official business.”

Trump has made his @RealDonaldTrump account, which he opened in 2009, a central and controversial part of his presidency, using it to promote his agenda and attack critics.

His blocking of critics was challenged by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, as well as seven Twitter users he had blocked.

Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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