Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has unblocked 9 people on Twitter after they filed suit claiming he unconstitutionally barred them from seeing his account.
The Texas Tribune says the people maintain they had been blocked after they criticized him or his policies. The unnamed nine, all Texans, filed suit in April saying Paxton, a Republican, had barred them from his @KenPaxtonTX account on Twitter.
The ACLU of Texas and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University represented the Texans in their lawsuit.
"Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has unblocked the nine plaintiffs whom the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas represent in an ongoing lawsuit challenging Paxton’s practice of blocking critics from his Twitter account," the Knight Institute said in a statement on its website. Paxton had blocked the plaintiffs from his @KenPaxtonTX account after they criticized him or his policies in their own tweets.
"We’re pleased that Attorney General Paxton has agreed to unblock our plaintiffs in this lawsuit and are hopeful that he will do the same for anyone else he has blocked from his Twitter account simply because he doesn’t like what they have to say," said Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute. "Multiple courts have recognized that government officials who use their social media accounts for official purposes violate the First Amendment if they block people from those accounts on the basis of viewpoint."
Kate Huddleston, attorney for the ACLU of Texas, added: "This is a step in the right direction. Attorney General Paxton cannot prevent Texans from exercising their First Amendment rights, including their right to criticize his policies and qualifications in their responses to his tweets. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Attorney General will unblock other Texans whose speech he’s suppressed. It shouldn’t take a lawsuit for Attorney General Paxton to comply with the Constitution."
Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request from the Tribune for comment. In the past, he has been critical of Twitter.
"If you have views that they don't like, they take you off; I mean, it's not like they've been taking liberals off," Paxton told Newsmax TV in March about Twitter's bans on former President Donald Trump, his supporters, and conservative users. "It's been very viewpoint-based, and if you have certain conservative views, that's when you get knocked off Twitter."
The nine individuals who were blocked include a U.S. Army veteran, a journalist, a director of a Texas nonprofit, an immigration advocate, two students, a sales representative, a communications project assistant, and an attorney.
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