WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) – A federal judge says President Donald Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter without violating the First Amendment.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan issued the written decision Wednesday.

In ruling, she said no government official — including the president — is above the law.

The case was brought last July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven individuals blocked by Trump after criticizing the Republican president.

While acknowledging that blocking a Twitter user “does not completely eliminate…ability to interact with the President’s tweets”, the ruling states: “We hold that the speech in which they seek to engage is protected by the First Amendment and that the President and [Trump social media director Dan] Scavino exert governmental control over certain aspects of the @realDonaldTrump account”.

This screen grab shows a message tweeted by US President Donald Trump on May 10, 2018. (Photo credit: ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)

And though the ruling was specifically on a matter involving the President’s personal Twitter account, other users of the platform were questioning whether this would apply more broadly to Twitter’s own practice of promoting “healthy conversation” – a practice some say has resulted in a subtle form of censorship.

After a hearing this year, the judge had suggested that Trump mute rather than block some of his critics. At the time, a Justice Department attorney agreed that muting would enable Trump to avoid a tweet he doesn’t want to read.

It’s unclear whether the White House will appeal the ruling. A Justice Department spokesperson told Reuters the agency disagrees with the ruling and “will consider next steps”.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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