On Monday, the Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit related to former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account. The Justice Department had said that the end of his term in the White House had made the case a dead letter.
Seven people had criticized tweets on the now defunct Twitter account of Trump. He had responded by blocking them from the account. They sued him for blocking them. They won their lawsuit in the lower courts, which ruled that blocking individual respondents because of their viewpoints was a violation of the First Amendment.
The Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit had mentioned that the president’s account could be considered as a type of a public forum and that it often dealt with official matters and that White House staff members had also contributed to this account.
The Justice Department, when Trump was in the White House, had asked the Supreme Court to reverse the rulings of the lower court. His lawyers argued that although the president’s tweets were sometimes official statements, his decision to block individual responses was a personal response by him and the social media platform allowed all its users to block individuals.
The night before President Joe Biden took oath of office and became the President of the United States, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case as moot. It also asked the highest court of the nation to vacate the ruling of the lower court.
Katie Fallow of Knight Institute, which is an advocacy group for First Amendment issues, represented the Twitter respondents blocked by Trump. Knight urged the justices to leave the lower court rulings intact as it was necessary to protect the “vitality of public forums that are increasingly important to our democracy,” The ruling could possibly shape the way public officials use social media.
Justice Clarence Thomas said that he agreed with the decision that the case was moot but he also mentioned that “applying old doctrines to new digital platforms” was “rarely straightforward.”
He also said that it was odd to say that something was a government forum when a private company (Twitter) had “unrestricted authority to do away with it.”
In January, Twitter had permanently suspended Trump’s account after a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. They were trying to stop Biden’s election victory. The social media platform suspended the account citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.”