Trump unblocks cancer survivor, dozens of others on Twitter after receiving complaint

His blocking sprees were ruled unconstitutional in May.

Aug 28, 2018, 8:36 pm*

Tech

Kris Seavers 

Kris Seavers

25th amendment

Michael Vadon/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

In September, Nevada resident and healthcare activist Laura Packard woke up to discover she’d been blocked on Twitter by President Donald Trump. Nearly a year later, and just as suddenly, Packard says the president has unblocked her.

Including Packard, Trump on Tuesday quietly unblocked at least 42 individuals who had previously been banned from viewing or interacting with @realDonaldTrump, according to the individuals. While it’s not the first time Trump has unblocked an account, it’s to date the most unblocking he’s done in a single day and comes three months after his blocking sprees were ruled unconstitutional.

The White House did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment on why Trump unblocked dozens of folks on Tuesday. But just a few weeks ago, on Aug. 10, the Knight First Amendment Institute sent a letter to the Department of Justice demanding the president and his aides “restore access to all users who were blocked from the president’s account on the basis of viewpoint.”

The institute’s letter listed 41 Twitter users who were still blocked by @realDonaldTrump after a district court ruled in May that Trump can’t block even his most scathing critics for their political views. His doing so, the federal judge said, violates critics’ First Amendment rights to express their opinions in a public forum. The Justice Department appealed the ruling.

The Trump administration still unblocked the seven plaintiffs’ accounts following the lawsuit, according to the Knight Institute. @TrumpBlocks, an account that tracks Trump’s blocking activity, confirms that at least five of those plaintiffs were unblocked on June 4.

Packard, who was among the 41 identified as still blocked by the Knight Institute’s letter, is the co-chair of advocacy organization Health Care Voter. She told the Daily Dot that the night before she was blocked by Trump in September, she had been tweeting about her stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and how repealing the Affordable Care Act would jeopardize her health.

As the Daily Dot reported at the time, Packard’s tweets before being blocked challenged Trump’s support of the GOP’s proposed healthcare overhaul. Self-employed and using health insurance through Obamacare, her fight with cancer boosted the immediacy of her concerns—but being blocked silenced her ability to voice her concerns to the president.

“He works for us. It is his job to listen to us,” she told the Daily Dot. “I don’t live in D.C., I am not a billionaire and I can’t make one phone call to reach his desk. Social media is the only way to reach him directly, and also to be a part of the national conversation around what he has to say.”

Now that she’s unblocked, Packard, who was told by doctors earlier this year that she’s in remission, says she will continue reaching out to the president via Twitter. Her energy now is devoted to advocating against Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and his potential plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“I will keep speaking up about why our Senators need to vote against him, and also about the junk insurance plans Trump has put forward, and anything else that threatens our health,” Packard said.

Update 8:07pm CT, Aug. 28This story has been updated to reflect the estimated number of accounts unblocked by @realDonaldTrump on Tuesday.

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*First Published: Aug 28, 2018, 6:28 pm