Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been sued for blocking people on Twitter. The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in a Texas federal court by The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, who are representing nine individuals who said Paxton blocked them after they criticized him, including one instance where an individual was blocked after imploring Paxton to comply with Covid-19 safety measures and wear a mask.
“This is yet another example of the Attorney General’s many violations of Texans’ civil rights and liberties and an authoritarian effort to suppress speech with which he disagrees. They argue that Paxton’s blocking of the individuals violates the First Amendment,” Kate Huddleston, an attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.
Last month, Paxton sparked controversy in a separate instance where he was accused of obfuscating information after critics said he attempting to withhold all messages he sent or received during the Capitol riot on January 6. The Texas Public Information Act gives the public the right to review government records; several Texas news outlets have requested copies of his internal communications only to be rebuffed.
Paxton’s refusal to cooperate prompted The Texas Tribune and ProPublica, The Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, and The San Antonio Express-News to form a coalition dedicated to obtaining the documents and reviewing them.
“The news outlets discovered that Paxton’s office, which is supposed to enforce the state’s open records laws, has no policy governing the release of work-related messages stored on Paxton’s personal devices,” they noted in a collective report published in each of the respective news outlets. “It is unclear whether the office reviews Paxton’s email accounts and phones to look for requested records, or whether the attorney general himself determines what to turn over without any outside checks.”
Paxton, a noted ally of former President Donald Trump, has made headlines in the past for pushing conspiracy theories about the election, at one point filing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the election results in the key swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, all of which were won decisively by President Joe Biden.