In the ongoing case regarding whether President Trump can block individual Twitter users under the First Amendment (see our previous coverage here), the Second Circuit earlier this week affirmed Judge Buchwald’s earlier ruling that the president’s Twitter account is a public forum and that blocking individual users represented unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
The Second Circuit noted that social media is entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other forms of media, and its analysis focused on whether the account should be considered public or private:
The government’s response is that the President is not acting in his official capacity when he blocks users because that function is available to all users, not only to government officials. However, the fact that any Twitter user can block another account does not mean that the President somehow becomes a private person when he does so. Because the President, as we have seen, acts in an official capacity when he tweets, we conclude that he acts in the same capacity when he blocks those who disagree with him. Here, a public official and his subordinates hold out and use a social media account open to the public as an official account for conducting official business. That account has interactive features open to the public, making public interaction a prominent feature of the account. These factors mean that the account is not private. Accordingly, the President excluded the Individual Plaintiffs from government‐controlled property when he used the blocking function of the Account to exclude disfavored voices.
Of course, not every social media account operated by a public official is a government account. Whether First Amendment concerns are triggered when a public official uses his account in ways that differ from those presented on this appeal will in most instances be a fact‐specific inquiry. The outcome of that inquiry will be informed by how the official describes and uses the account; to whom features of the account are made available; and how others, including government officials and agencies, regard and treat the account. But these are concerns for other cases and other days and are ones we are not required to consider or resolve on this appeal.