BUFFALO, N.Y. — A federal appeals court ruled this week that President Trump cannot block people from following him on Twitter because it violates the First Amendment.
And the ruling has a broader impact on all elected officials.
The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that President Trump by blocking critics from following him on Twitter engaged in "viewpoint discrimination," not allowing them to see government information from his tweets.
The ruling applies to not only the president but to all elected officials.
People have shared tweets with screenshots, showing that Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw have blocked them in the past.
2 On Your Side asked to interview the county executive Wednesday on whether he plans to unblock his critics. We were told Poloncarz was not available.
Instead, a spokesperson for Poloncarz says the county executive has not blocked anyone from seeing his posts in months and that everyone can see what he tweets.
2 On Your Side also requested an interview with Mychajliw. We were told he was unavailable as well.
However, a spokesperson for the comptroller does say that over the past six years, his staff has blocked a total of 61 accounts from fake media, fake parody and pornography accounts.
In response to the appellate court ruling, those 61 accounts have been unblocked.
2 On Your Side legal analyst Barry Covert handles many First Amendment cases. We asked him, what kind of precedent could this set?
"It sets a very strong precedent," Covert said. "When a public official uses any venue such as social media platform, or just going to the village square and engages in official conduct, the fact that they block anyone from speaking at the village square or interacting in social media is absolutely unconstitutional."
Could there be some wiggle room for elected officials to still block other people for other reasons?
"I could see where a public official who has social media would be permitted to block a user that was threatening immediate physical harm or injury," Covert said.
The Trump Administration could ask the entire 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to review this ruling, or perhaps take this case to the Supreme Court.
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