The White House is asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that restricts President Donald Trump from blocking followers on Twitter.
The president's legal team seeks to define the executive authority to block followers after a lower court ruled Trump's Twitter account is "an official channel of communication" and therefore cannot block Americans from seeing his tweets.
Three judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that blocking Twitter followers is a violation of their First Amendment rights of free speech. A full appeals court declined to hear the case in March, and the White House now is fighting the ruling to the nation's highest court.
"President Trump's ability to use the features of his personal Twitter account, including the blocking function, are independent of his presidential office," acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall in his petition to the Supreme Court. "Blocking third-party accounts from interacting with the @realDonaldTrump account is a purely personal action that does not involve any 'right or privilege created by the State.'"
Wall said that Trump’s decision to block users does not prevent them from criticizing the president, noting that they could still view his tweets while not logged into the social media platform and post screenshots of the messages.
Wall argued the lower court ruling hamstring public officials from being able "to insulate their social-media accounts from harassment, trolling, or hate speech without invasive judicial oversight."
The case was originally brought in 2017 by the The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which sued on behalf of seven users whom the president blocked after they had replied to one or more of his tweets.
One of the originators of the case, Jameel Jaffer, of the Knight Institute's executive director, told NBC News in a statement Thursday, the case "stands for a principle that is fundamental to our democracy and basically synonymous with the First Amendment: Government officials can't exclude people from public forums simply because they disagree with their political views."
"The Supreme Court should reject the White House's petition and leave the appeals court's careful and well-reasoned decision in place," Jaffer's statement concluded.
The case might be heard in October, but the ruling would likely be delivered by next June, according to the report.
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