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Twitter sues Paxton

How the tables have turned.

Best mugshot ever

Twitter filed a lawsuit against Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a California federal court Monday and asked a judge to halt the state’s top lawyer from investigating the company.

The social media giant’s court filings include a request for a temporary restraining order that would keep Paxton and his office from enforcing a demand that seeks documents revealing the company’s internal decision making processes for banning users, among other things.

Paxton, a fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump, sent the company a civil investigative demand after it banned Trump from its platform following January’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol.

Twitter wrote that it seeks to stop Paxton from “from unlawfully abusing his authority as the highest law-enforcement officer of the State of Texas to intimidate, harass, and target Twitter in retaliation for Twitter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights.” The company claimed Paxton’s “retaliatory” investigation violated the First Amendment as an inappropriate use of government authority.

[…]

The attorney general is among Texas Republican leaders who have launched a campaign against technology and social media companies after officials and followers faced repercussions for sowing the election doubts that fueled the Capitol insurrection.

Twitter is one of five tech and social media firms to which Paxton issued civil investigative demands to learn about the procedures such companies use to regulate postings or user accounts.

Paxton, who attended the rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, criticized companies’ moves after the siege, which included Twitter banning Trump from its platform.

“The seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President of the United States and several leading voices not only chills free speech, it wholly silences those whose speech and political beliefs do not align with leaders of Big Tech companies,” Paxton said in a Jan. 13 news release.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott touted Texas legislation that seeks to crack down on social media companies’ perceived censorship of conservative voices. Senate Bill 12 would prohibit social media companies — including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — from blocking, banning, demonetizing, or otherwise discriminating against a user based on their viewpoint or their location within Texas.

I’ve looked around but have not seen any legal analysis of this lawsuit, but Texas Lawyer adds some useful details.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Monday, asserts that Paxton issued a civil investigative demand just five days after the company announced its ban of Trump. The Attorney General’s Office demanded “volumes of highly confidential documents concerning Twitter’s internal content moderation processes—the public disclosure of which would undermine their effectiveness, and compromise Twitter’s ability to effectively and efficiently moderate content on its platform,” according to the complaint, which was surfaced by Law.com Radar.

Twitter alleges that Paxton violated the First Amendment by issuing the investigation targeting its editorial practices. The company says in the lawsuit that it attempted to work with Paxton to tailor the document requests but did not reach an agreement.

“Instead, AG Paxton made clear that he will use the full weight of his office, including his expansive investigatory powers, to retaliate against Twitter for having made editorial decisions with which he disagrees,” wrote Wilmer attorneys Patrick Carome, Ari Holtzblatt, Peter Neiman and Mark Flanagan. “Now Twitter, already targeted because of its protected activity, is left with the untenable choice to turn over highly sensitive documents or else face legal sanctions.”

Twitter is seeking an order declaring that Paxton violated the tech firm’s free speech rights and a temporary restraining order enjoining the office from continuing the investigation.

A Twitter representative said Paxton is misusing the powers of his office in an attempt to silence free speech. “As we’ve repeatedly stated, and recent research underscores, we enforce the Twitter Rules judiciously and impartially across our service,” the representative said in an email statement. “In the words of AG Paxton: ‘…[i]t is one thing to use the legal system to pursue public policy outcomes; but it is quite another to use prosecutorial weapons to intimidate critics, silence free speech, or chill the robust exchange of ideas.’”

You can see a copy of the lawsuit embedded in the story. Still no analysis, so I have no idea if it’s mostly noise that won’t survive a motion to dismiss or if it’s likely to succeed, but that helped. We do know that Paxton is a complete bootlicking toady for Donald Trump, and we do know that his lawsuit to try to overturn the election was trash, so it’s hardly a stretch to think that his “investigation” is something less than top-notch lawyering. I think we can also agree that SB12, if it manages to pass, will draw a multitude of lawsuits within days of it becoming law. I say pop the corn and enjoy the spectacle. Reform Austin and the Current have more.

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12 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    If Twitter can sue Paxton, I don’t see why the Trump Organization cannot sue Cyrus Vance and the black NY AG that are relentlessly harassing and haranguing Trump, and file the lawsuit in Trump friendly Florida. Maybe they should think about doing that, going on the attack for a change.

    As to the Paxton lawsuit, I suspect that if Twitter was run by right wingers who deplatformed leftists en masse, we might have a different view of Paxton’s push back on Twitter. In other words, as long as Twitter is silencing voices we don’t like, we’re just fine with that, but if they silence voices we DO like, well, Houston, we have a problem.

  2. Manny says:

    I am sure that much smarter minds have considered what you have stated, Bill.

    The problem with suing is that one opens themselves up for discovery. Don’t think that the orange buffoon is too keen on that happening. He is more prone to hiding things.

  3. C.L. says:

    I don’t give a shit who Twitter or Facebook or Parler or Grindr silences – their company, their rules. The First Amendment doesn’t prohibit companies, it prohibits the Government from making laws that silence free speech.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    C.L.,

    If you were consistent, you’d support state and federal AG’s going after their perceived political enemies, just as SDNY and the NY AG are going after the Trump Org. Supporting the attacks by NY on a private business for political reasons, but not supporting the attack by Texas on private businesses for political reasons is hypocritical of you, C.L.

  5. Manny says:

    Shifting sand Bill, comparing apples to oranges. C.L. said private companies can silence, you said the government can silence.

    New York going after Trump for alleged criminal activities is not close to being the same, Shifting Sand Bill.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    Glad to see that someone in government is standing up to the big tech plutocrats who are pocketing all kinds of money due to a pandemic.

  7. Manny says:

    Jason, you can choose not to use them, they are not necessary.

  8. C.L. says:

    Big difference between a State AG looking to prosecute crimes and a State AG pissed off at Twitter because his DC hero can’t tweet to the sheep. Twitter hasn’t committed a crime that I see.

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    C.L.:

    Paxton is looking to prosecute crimes, too. Just like the NY AG’s he just needs to go fishing to try and find some crimes.

    “Show me the man (or company) and I’ll show you the crime.”

    ~Lavrently Beria, Stalin’s Secret Police head

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    Paxton goes full alpha on the Austin mayor and Travis County judge:

    https://www.kwtx.com/2021/03/10/texas-attorney-general-gives-local-authorities-until-6-pm-to-suspend-mask-mandates/

    “Abbott made the threat in a letter to Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Austin Mayor Steve Adler Wednesday.

    “The decision to require masks or otherwise impose COVID-19-related operating limits is expressly reserved to private businesses on their own premises. It does not rest with jurisdictions like the City of Austin or Travis County or their local health authorities. Nor do they have the authority to threaten fines for non-compliance,” Paxton wrote in the letter.

    “We have already taken you to court under similar circumstances. You lost. If you continue to flout the law in this manner, we’ll take you to court again and you will lose again,” he wrote.

    “To that end, you and your local health authorities have until 6:00 p.m. today to rescind any local mask mandates or business-operating restrictions, retract any related public statements, and come into full compliance” with the governor’s order that lifted the mask mandate and operating capacity restrictions at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

    “Otherwise, on behalf of the State of Texas, I will sue you.”

    The man is a state treasure.

  11. Manny says:

    Paxton is another crook like Trump, actually worse. For five years, he has delayed his trial. An innocent person would welcome a trial.

    Bill, the crook lover. The old saying, birds of a feather like to stick together.

  12. […] here for the background. Not really much to add, but it gave me a second chance to see if I could find […]