South Florida

Has a politician blocked you on Twitter? These folks see victory in ruling against Trump

University of Illinois - Champaign students will be able to take a “Trumpaganda” class studying President Trump’s use of Twitter and “disinformation” to spread “propaganda,” according to the school.
University of Illinois - Champaign students will be able to take a “Trumpaganda” class studying President Trump’s use of Twitter and “disinformation” to spread “propaganda,” according to the school. AP

Getting blocked by President Donald Trump on Twitter has become almost a badge of honor for some. So much so, a Trump Block Party group on the social media site advertises that it will post the tweet that got you blocked by the commander-in-chief.

But Trump Block Party may have fewer posts of its own.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled in Manhattan that President Trump can't block people from viewing his Twitter feed over their political views. Buchwald said Trump's Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people who disagree with him equates to viewpoint discrimination, a violation of the First Amendment.

Reaction from South Florida locals who have been blocked by Trump or other politicians or public officials called the decision a victory for the First Amendment.

"Proudly blocked since September 2017 and yes, still blocked," said Lesley Abravanel, a freelance writer in Boca Raton who contributes celebrity gossip items for the Miami Herald and Miami.Com. Trump Block Party shared Abravanel's "offending" tweet to the president in September in which she called Trump "a demented racist."

"It's a First Amendment victory which means to me that there is thankfully someone looking out for the Constitution that Trump is defiling and trying to defy," Abravanel said of the 75-page court ruling that stopped short of ordering Trump or a subordinate to stop blocking critics from viewing his Twitter account, but instead opined that it was enough to point out that doing so by a public elected official was unconstitutional.

Grant Stern, a Miami mortgage broker who hosts a satellite radio program on Sirius/XM, hasn't been blocked by Trump — "I was never an especially active shouter at Trump."

But as a vocal critic of former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is now running for Florida governor, Stern was blocked by Levine on his Twitter and Facebook social media accounts.

In October 2016, Stern sued Levine and Miami Beach City Hall over access to the list of people Levine had blocked on his Facebook page and satellite radio broadcasts the mayor had done on his own Sirius/XM program, "The Mayor."

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Wednesday's ruling on Trump's Twitter account adds fuel to Stern's legal dispute over what social media posts are deemed public under Florida’s sunshine laws., Stern said. The outcome of Stern's suit against Levine is still pending.

"It's a victory for the First Amendment and proves our case entirely," Stern said. "In the eyes of the law we don't have anything left to prove. Floridians have an extra layer of protection from censorship because the Sunshine Law applies to most of them. There's no reason for a public official to block anybody. That's censorship ... that's the heart of the First Amendment."

Film director Billy Corben, whose rakontur media studio in Miami Beach released documentaries including "Cocaine Cowboys" and its sequels, is a frequent critic on Twitter and has amassed more than 51,000 followers — obviously a pittance compared to Trump's 52.2 million.

But Corben has made enough noise to ruffle public officials and notes that he has been blocked over the years by various elected officials and public agencies, such as Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr., Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Broward School Board member Ann Murray, the Broward Sheriff's Office, Lakeland Police Department and Martin County Sheriff's Office.

"All of them unblocked me after I made public records requests about the usage of their Twitter accounts," Corben said. "I am still blocked, at the very least, however, by Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, the City of Miami Gardens, State Sen. Daphne Campbell and the Homestead Police Department. All of whom I plan to follow up with in light of this new ruling."

As for the president, "Regrettably, I have not been blocked by Trump. Nor do I follow him. I think if nobody followed him, we might have a chance to 'Make America Great Again,'" Corben quips. "Here's the rub: There is currently no option on Twitter to see a list of people who have blocked you; you just have to discover it in your social media travels."

Corben applauds the federal district court's Wednesday ruling on "a subject I'm very passionate about," he said. "I have always maintained that these social media accounts are a matter of public record and it is unconstitutional to block the public. That is why I have responded to my being blocked with public records requests. Importantly, no one has claimed that their Twitter accounts are exempt from public records."

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.
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