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Politics

Trump unblocks more Twitter critics after free speech ruling

The move comes after a judge ruled that preventing people from following the president violated their constitutional rights.

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President Donald Trump unblocked further Twitter followers on Tuesday.

Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump unblocked more of his Twitter critics on Tuesday, a move that followed a federal judge's ruling that he was violating the constitutional rights of the people he blocked from following him. 

US District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled in May that public officials can't block people from their Twitter account in response to the political views the people have expressed.

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The seven people who filed the suit that led to the ruling were unblocked in June. The Justice Department has said it was appealing.

Since then, Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute sent the Justice Department a list of 41 accounts still blocked by Trump. At least 20 of them said on Twitter that the president had unblocked them on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Neil Makhija, a law lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, was among those unblocked.

"I got blocked because I tweeted about President Trump's push to take away health care from millions of Americans, especially those in Pennsylvania who are grappling with the worst of the opioid crisis," he said in a emailed statement.

"I'm not happy I get to read @realDonaldTrump's tweets, but I am happy that the rule of law still means something in the United States and that we as citizens can drive the conversation toward the issues that matter."

White House reporter J.D. Durkin tweeted: "NEW -- important update to this -- thanks to @KatieFallow and @knightcolumbia, I've been officially UNBLOCKED by @realDonaldTrump after 14 months... did I miss anything?"

Laura Packard wasn't part of the lawsuit, but said she was unblocked Tuesday. She noted that the @TrumpBlocks account offers a list of those blocked and unblocked by the president.

"I was blocked by President Trump last year while fighting for my health care. I was not a part of the lawsuit, because it was filed before I was blocked (in September of last year)," she said in an emailed statement.

Technologist Tom Coates also said he'd been unblocked and recounted the whole saga in a long thread.

However, comedian Rosie O'Donnell said on Twitter Tuesday that she was still blocked. Her name wasn't on the Knight Institute's list, but the organization put out a call for anyone who wished to get unblocked.

"Still blocked by @realdonaldtrump? If you haven't already, send an email to info@knightcolumbia.org," it wrote.

"We're pleased to see the White House take steps to comply with the district court's ruling that the First Amendment prohibits the president from blocking Twitter users simply because they have criticized him," said Katie Fallow, senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, in an emailed statement.

"We'll continue to work with the Justice Department to ensure the White House restores access to the @realDonaldTrump account to all individuals who were blocked on the basis of their viewpoints. We also look forward to defending the district court's ruling in the appeals court."

Neither White House nor Twitter immediately responded to requests for comment.

In her ruling, Buchwald suggested that Trump could still "mute" Twitter users without violating their free speech rights. Muting an account means Trump wouldn't see its tweets. 

First published Aug. 29 at 6:47 a.m. PT.
Latest update at 9:04 a.m. PT: Adds statements from Neil Makhija and Laura Packard.

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