Texas Attorney General Unblocks Twitter Users Who Sued Him; Still Blocking Others
from the that's-not-how-this-works dept
It seems by now that public officials should know that they cannot block critics on social media if they are using their social media accounts for official business. This was thoroughly established the Knight v. Trump case, where the court made it clear that if (1) a public official is (2) using social media (3) for official purposes (4) to create a space of open dialogue (and all four of those factors are met) then they cannot block people from following them based on the views those users express, as it violates the 1st Amendment. Yet over and over again elected officials seem to ignore this.
Last month, controversy prone Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was sued over the same thing (again by the Knight First Amendment Institute). As the lawsuit notes, many of the people Paxton blocked found themselves in that situation after they replied to Paxton by reminding him of the still ongoing criminal charges he’s been facing his entire time in office. Basically, if you remind Paxton of the fact that he’s facing criminal charges, you had a decent shot at getting blocked.
However, last week, Paxton unblocked the 9 users who sued him, perhaps realizing he was clearly going to lose this case. Of course, it looks like he only removed the blocks on those 9 individuals and kept up the blocks on others. Law professor Steve Vladeck (who is at the University of Texas Law School) noted that he’s still blocked, even if the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are not:
I?m still blocked by @kenpaxtontx.
Clearly, this is only about mooting this specific lawsuit ? rather than a concession that he shouldn?t be blocking from his official account *any* constituents who publicly criticize him. https://t.co/3glxsIe8nW
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) May 6, 2021
Vladeck is (of course) correct. The whole point of this is that public officials cannot block anyone from their official accounts like this. If he’s just unblocked the people who sued them, that means anyone blocked will have to go through the costly and time consuming process of suing to get unblocked, and that’s not how it’s supposed to work either.
It seems pretty clear that the lawyers in the case recognize that Paxton isn’t really doing what he is required to do under the 1st Amendment:
?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.
Anyone taking bets on how many of those other people are going to need to sue first?