Eugene Gu, the Asian American doctor who made headlines last year for taking a knee, beat United States President Donald Trump in court a few weeks ago.
According to Duke’s The Chronicle, The Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University filed the lawsuit against Trump last July on behalf Gu and six other co-plaintiffs, who were all blocked by the Trump’s Twitter account at around the same time.
On May 23, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that Trump cannot block users on Twitter based on their expressed views.
I’m still blocked by Trump despite winning a federal lawsuit against him. Every day I remain blocked means the President is infringing upon my First Amendment rights and violating a federal order. Follow the rule of law and the Constitution you swore to protect, Mr. President. pic.twitter.com/HOfdFXRMes
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) May 24, 2018
Declaring that Trump’s Twitter account is a form of public forum, the presiding judge noted in her ruling that blocking of users in his account violates the First Amendment, which protects a citizen’s freedom of speech.
“We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account—the ‘interactive space’ where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets—are properly analyzed under the ‘public forum’ doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment,” Buchwald wrote.
Two weeks after the declaratory judgment ruling, Trump finally unblocked Gu.
I sued Trump and won. Thanks to the hard work of my co-plaintiffs, Katie Fallow and our legal team, and the Knight First Amendment Institute, the President of the United States just unblocked me on Twitter. Not even Trump can infringe upon our First Amendment rights. pic.twitter.com/8Gf7vM59l8
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) June 5, 2018
Gu wrote about his intentions to file a case back in July last year immediately after he was blocked apparently for poking fun at a typo in Trump’s tweet in June 2017.
That was just weeks after the president’s infamous “Covfefe” tweet, which Gu alluded to in his response:
Covfefe: The same guy who doesn’t proofread his Twitter handles the nuclear button.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) June 18, 2017
“My first viral tweet to Trump was a political cartoon celebrating the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to reverse the Muslim travel ban. It got over 2,000 likes. A few days later I made a comment about how the ‘greatest witch hunt in American history’ was the Salem witch trials against women. That tweet got over 4,000 likes and was featured on Twitter Moments. For the first time, it felt like I was finally being heard. Then the president blocked me,” Gu wrote on Fortune last year.
“The tweet that supposedly triggered him was neither abusive nor vulgar. I simply said, ‘Covfefe: the same guy who doesn’t proofread his Twitter handles the nuclear button.’ It got over 1,000 likes before he hit the block button,” he added.
Following the judge’s ruling, the Knight Institute’s executive director, Jameel Jaffer said in a statement: “We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform. The President’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end.”
Gu, who also strongly agrees with the ruling, was quoted as saying:
“This is a great precedent we have set for politicians that decide to use social media as a town hall to be held accountable to the rules of the First Amendment. You can’t just use something like Twitter to host a public forum and then only have your supporters in there to create an echo chamber.”
Featured image via Twitter / eugenegu