Paxton to stop blocking critics on Twitter, ending First Amendment suit

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has unblocked critics on his Twitter account and agreed to not block anyone in the future, ending a First Amendment lawsuit against him.

The agreement was filed Friday in an Austin-based federal case brought against him by nine Twitter users who had been blocked from Paxton’s @KenPaxtonTX Twitter account after criticizing him or his policies. 

The plaintiffs, represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, agreed to drop their suit as part of the deal. 

“We’re pleased that Attorney General Paxton has agreed to stop blocking people from his Twitter account simply because he doesn’t like what they have to say,” said Katie Fallow, an attorney at the Knight 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. What Paxton was doing was unconstitutional.”

The Texas attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Paxton unblocked the nine plaintiffs and all other accounts after he was hit with the lawsuit in April. As part of the stipulation filed on Friday, Paxton agreed that “users will not be blocked from the @KenPaxtonTX Twitter account based on First Amendment-protected viewpoints expressed.” 

The case arose after a similar suit against former President Trump.  

Lower federal courts found that Trump’s Twitter account, where he often weighed in on official matters, constituted a public forum and that blocking his detractors violated their constitutional free speech protections. In April, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment below and dismissed Trump’s appeal as moot.

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