- The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a case about Trump blocking Twitter users.
- In 2018, a federal judge ruled that Trump blocking users violated the First Amendment.
- The case is now moot because Trump has left office and has also been banned from the platform.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The Supreme Court in a Monday morning ruling dismissed as moot a case over former President Donald Trump blocking Twitter users who criticized him.
The Supreme Court vacated a ruling from the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that found that Trump violated the First Amendment in blocking Twitter users from his former account @realdonaldtrump. The justices ordered the case to be remanded back to the 2nd Circuit for dismissal.
When Trump left office on January 20, the case changed to listing “Joseph Biden Jr., president of the United States,” as the petitioner appealing the case, even though Biden himself has nothing to do with the case.
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Justice Clarence Thomas cited the “change in Presidential administration” as the reason why the Court was correct in dismissing the case. The case is also now moot because Trump has been banned from the platform for nearly three months.
Twitter permanently suspended Trump from Twitter on January 8, 2021, two days after the insurrection waged by Trump supporters on the US Capitol on January 6.
The case, the first of its kind, began in 2017 when the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, representing seven Twitter users who had been blocked by Trump, sued the Trump administration for the actions on First Amendment grounds.
Trump posted official presidential statements, policy changes, and proclamations from his Twitter account, making it a “public forum” and blocking Twitter users abridged their First Amendment right to petition their government for redress, the Knight Institute argued.
In Trump’s defense, the Department of Justice said that because the former president was blocking users from a personal account, taking legal action against it would be akin to violating his personal property rights.
District court judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled in the Knight Institute’s favor in May 2018, finding that because Trump’s Twitter feed was “a designated public forum,” Trump had, in fact, violated the First Amendment by blocking users.
Her decision was affirmed by a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit on appeal in 2019. The full nine-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit declined to rehear the case en banc — or as a whole circuit court — in March 2020. The Trump administration then petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari — petitioning the court to review the case — in August 2020.
The people Trump had blocked included activists, journalists, and celebrity Chrissy Teigen, who built up a following partly through her strongly-worded retorts at the president, including calling him “a p—- a– b—-” at one point in 2019.
In his concurrence, Thomas noted that “this petition highlights the principal legal difficulty that surrounds digital platforms— namely, that applying old doctrines to new digital platforms is rarely straightforward.”
“Respondents have a point, for example, that some aspects of Mr. Trump’s account resemble a constitutionally protected public forum. But it seems rather odd to say that something is a government forum when a private company has unrestricted authority to do away with it,” he wrote.
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