A Virginia man just won a landmark online free speech ruling from a federal appeals court (embedded below) that will have a tremendous impact on the civil lawsuits against Donald Trump for blocking people on Twitter.
Brian Davison is a public schools activist in Northeastern Virginia who was blocked by Phyllis J. Randall, the Chairwoman of the Loudon County Commission during a public meeting. A northern Virginia district judge ruled that her social media blocking violated the Constitution’s First Amendment last year, and today the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals handed down a unanimous appeals court decision in Davison’s favor.
President Trump is facing a similar lawsuit in a New York federal court for blocking his critics on Twitter, and today’s decision means that his case is probably lost. The Washington Post reports:
Joshua A. Geltzer, executive director at Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, said the 4th Circuit ruling is significant because the digital social media space is now the equivalent of a physical public meeting, where most political dialogue occurs.
“In the case of the Loudoun official and the president, both have gone out of their way to use their social media presence in an official capacity and to encourage public participation,” Geltzer said.
“Politicians should stop trying to suppress their constituents and let people be heard,” Brian Davison told me in a phone interview.
“Trump’s case isn’t the only social media censorship appeals case pending right now,” says Davison who filed this suit in July 2016, “and today’s ruling confirms that politicians can’t promote one-sided views on their official accounts while letting their supporters speak.”
Last May, Trump lost a ruling in the July 2017 lawsuit against him by blocked Twitter users filed by the non-profit Knight First Amendment Institute, which the President is appealing.
An attorney on both cases for Knight explained why social media blocking is little more than the newest form of government censorship to the Post:
“You don’t want public officials picking and choosing who is allowed to speak,” said attorney Katherine Fallow of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, who is handling the cases in Virginia and New York.
“You want to make sure all voices are heard in that forum so you see a fair and true representation of what people think, rather than an echo chamber.”
One of Trump’s critics who sued to be unblocked is openly rejoicing.
“It renders me speechless that we still have to deal with censorship and it’s 2019. Trump’s censorship goes against the First Amendment which he and other politicians obviously don’t care about,” says Lesley Abravanel, a columnist for the Miami Herald who was blocked by Trump and joined the lawsuit against the President.
“We have prevailed and we shall prevail,” says Abravanel.
Today’s ruling is a major milestone for all Americans in the fight to be heard by their elected politicians.
For President Trump, today’s Virginia court ruling the harbinger of another high profile court loss that will leave him wide open to criticism for the rest of his term of office and protect citizens who stand up to challenge his lie-filled rants on Twitter.