Court ruling prohibits Trump and maybe other public officials from blocking Twitter users

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In the new age of social media, what is acceptable or not for a government public official and engagement with constituents?

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — President Donald Trump notoriously uses his Twitter account for both personal content as well as political policies and agendas.

His tweets regularly make news as a result of how he utilizes the platform, but now a court ruling is changing the way Trump interacts with users who criticize or disagree with him.  

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that Trump cannot block people since he is now a public official and no longer a private citizen.

The Associate Dean at George Washington University Law School, Alan B. Morrison, who teaches constitutional law has been following this case closely. “It has been ruled unconstitutional for him (Trump) to block people on Twitter based on two factors,” said Morrison, “he is a public official and it is not a private account since his White House staff help him with it, and it is unconstitutional to not allow discourse between your constituents.”

This then begs the question of does this set the precedent for all public officials? “This is a government account,” explains Morrison, “and as a government account you cannot keep off people who disagree with your positions.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Congresswoman, is yet another public official being sued for blocking Twitter users. Both Ocasio-Cortez and Trump, are very visible in the public eye but Morrison said local elected officials should also be wary of their social media accounts to avoid a lawsuit.

Montgomery County Council Member at large, Evan Glass, is very active on social media and understands what this ruling could mean for elected officials like himself. “Unlike President Trump,” Glass remarks, “I don’t block anybody, I don’t delete any comments that are made. I have nothing to hide.”

Glass said he has avoided doing all of the above, despite getting hate speech online during Pride month since he is the first gay council member in Montgomery County.

Glass added that having tough skin comes with the job, and engaging with constituents despite disagreements or negative comments is a must. “You have to be part of the online conversation,” says Glass, “I am going to see it and that is a good practice to maintain for all public officials.”

The majority of people WDVM spoke with in Montgomery County, regardless of their party affiliation, said they believed this ruling was warranted on the basis of accountability.

Don Bowers, a Trump supporter says,” I don’t disagree that public officials should be accountable. My big thing is if they are going to make social media platforms, enforce their rules evenly.”

But this ultimately could trickle down to all government officials thinks Morrison. “It’s only fair to look into this for all government officials,” comments Trump supporter Bowers.

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