The Supreme Court decided on Monday to toss out a case that challenged former President Donald Trump’s blocking folks on social media platform Twitter. These blocks happened before the former president was booted off the platform himself.
The court kicked the case back down to an appeals court and ordered that it be dismissed as moot. This case is one of the last from the Trump-era lawsuits to be tossed in the can after Trump left office.
Earlier this year, the court refused to hear a case that alleged the former president had violated some odd, obscure emoluments clause in the Constitution by his dealings at the D.C. Trump Hotel.
Justice Clarence Thomas in a concurring opinion wrote that given the fact that Trump is no longer in office and banned from Twitter, the court made the right decision to drop the case. Still, he added, the case raised important questions about the control of free speech on digital platforms.
“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors,” Thomas said. “Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.
Trump’s Twitter case, Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, arose in 2017 after several Twitter users claimed that Trump had violated their First Amendment rights by blocking their accounts. They argued that although Trump tweeted from his personal account, he used it in a presidential capacity, making it a public forum. The plaintiffs said every Trump tweet was an “official statement.”
Back in 2018, a judge in the state of New York ruled that Trump blocking other people was unconstitutional.
“This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States. The answer to both questions is no,” Judge Naomi Buchwald said in her ruling.
Not long after this, many of the individuals who claimed that the president blocked them said they had been unblocked. However, the Trump administration continued to fight these lawsuits, but weren’t successful. A group of Twitter users sued the president last year, which then prompted Trump to appeal the cases in the Supreme Court.