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Photo: NurPhoto / Contributor/Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that President Trump violated the Constitution in blocking critics of his viewpoints on Twitter.

Why it matters: This is a huge win for free speech advocates. The ruling sets a precedent that any elected official — from a local mayor to the president — who blocks a constituent on Twitter could be found guilty of violating that constituent's First Amendment rights.

Details: Tuesday's decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York aligns with an earlier decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia that ruled government officials can't block constituents on social media accounts that they use for official business, based on its interpretation of the First Amendment.

  • In its ruling, the 2nd Circuit held that: "The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees."

Between the lines: The White House had appealed the district court case on the grounds that the president was using the @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle, not his official @POTUS45 government handle, and thus the president has the right to block whomever he wants. The 2nd Circuit panel rejected that argument.

  • "President Trump established his account, with the handle @realDonaldTrump, (the “Account”) in March 2009," the ruling reads.
  • "No one disputes that before he became President the Account was a purely private one or that once he leaves office the Account will presumably revert to its private status. This litigation concerns what the Account is now ... The public presentation of the Account and the webpage associated with it bear all the trappings of an official, state‐run account."

The big picture: President Trump's consistent attacks on the press and access to information, mostly on social media, have forced judges to re-evaluate the rules of political communications in the digital era.

Go deeper: Trump's unexpected 1st Amendment legacy

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to show that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling aligns with an earlier ruling by 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on whether public officials could block critics from social media accounts (the 2nd Circuit did not uphold the 4th Circuit's ruling).

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

U.S. drone strike victims' families in Afghanistan seek compensation

A relative of Ezmarai Ahmadi, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike, looks at the wreckage of a vehicle that was damaged in the strike in the Kwaja Burga neighbourhood of Kabul on Saturday. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi AFP via Getty Images

Relatives of 10 Afghans killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month said Saturday they want to see punishment and compensation over the deaths.

Driving the news: The relatives said it's "good news" that the U.S. had "officially admitted" that "they had attacked innocents" in the Aug. 29 strike that killed Zamarai Ahmadi, an aid worker with a U.S.-based group, and nine family members, but they still need "justice," per AFP.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
5 hours ago - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.