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Paxton responds to Twitter lawsuit

He said something about it, anyway.

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday that a lawsuit by Twitter won’t deter his office from investigating the content moderation practices of the social media giant and four other major technology companies.

Twitter sued the Republican official this week in an effort to halt his probe, which the company claimed was retaliation for banning the account of former President Donald Trump following the deadly January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Days after the riot, Paxton announced an investigation of what he called “the seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President.” His office demanded a variety of records and internal communications from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Apple.

On Monday, Twitter asked a federal judge in California to effectively stop the probe and affirm that its decision to ban Trump was protected by the First Amendment. Paxton responded Wednesday that “most of the companies have cooperated” and called Twitter’s suit “remarkable.”

“Apparently they have some fear of disclosing what they’re actually doing if they’re asking a California judge to rule on Texas law,” he said during an online forum hosted by the conservative Media Research Center. In its demand for records, Paxton’s office cited the authority of Texas’ Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.

Lawyers for Twitter wrote in their complaint that the company had sought for weeks to “put reasonable limits on the scope” of Paxton’s demands but were unable to reach an agreement with his office. A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment Wednesday.

See here for the background. Not really much to add, but it gave me a second chance to see if I could find any analysis of the lawsuit. I did find this:

As previously noted by Law&Crime, Twitter is a private company and therefore has a First Amendment right to moderate its platform as it sees fit. The First Amendment also protects the company from having a government actor dictate how it operates its online platform, a point the company makes in the opening lines of the lawsuit.

“Twitter seeks to stop AG Paxton 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 lawsuit states. “The rights of free speech and of the press afforded Twitter under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution include the right to make decisions about what content to disseminate through its platform. This right specifically includes the discretion to remove or otherwise restrict access to Tweets, profiles, or other content posted to Twitter. AG Paxton may not compel Twitter to publish such content over its objection, and he may not penalize Twitter for exercising its right to exclude such content from its platform.”

A spokesperson for the company reiterated the free speech issue at the center of the controversy in a statement on Tuesday.

“A core part of Twitter’s mission is to protect freedom of expression and defend an Open Internet,” the statement read. “We work every day to protect those interests for the people who use our service around the world. The First Amendment protects everyone’s right to free speech, including private businesses.”

The company alleges it made several attempts to reach out to Paxton’s office to narrow the scope of the all-encompassing CID, but said the AG refused to budge.

“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,” the complaint states.

Seems pretty simple, but we’ll see what a judge says. I also found this Twitter thread that came to a similar conclusion, in response to some other guy claiming that Twitter’s lawsuit was garbage. So far my conclusion is that Twitter has the better argument, but I am open to someone who knows more about the law than me saying otherwise.

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3 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    The problem is bigger than Twitter, though. Our so called news has never been so bad.

    It is in the business of spreading division and fear. Now that Biden has started putting kids in cages, the Right has developed Borderline personality disorder and suddenly started caring about the kids in cages again.

    Andrew Cuomo who was sold to us by the news as “doing everything a president should” and the model of the response to covid presided over the worst outcome of all the states. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Party told him to feed elderly and ill people into a buzz saw of care home deaths, in order to increase the death toll, and thus the fear, which could all be blamed on Trump.

    Meanwhile, Trump is gone, but the Atlanta spa shooting, which Biden caused, because Trump is gone, seems to have been motivated by a sexual addiction which needed to deal with the temptation by shooting several massage spas.

    I can’t grasp most of the opinions that are presented by the so called news. I am a progressive, but I don’t have the ability that progressives have, like in the novel 1984 to hold two conflicting views at the same time. For example, I can’t believe the Manicheaen idea that the body has nothing to do with gender, gender is all a matter of something separate, the mind. At the same time, you are supposed to believe that we are only a body, no soul, only the Science.

    AS for Twitter, I think that the government should simply stop subsidizing the Internet, and big tech, and break up their monopolies and tax them at a ridiculously high rate, since they made a fortune from the pandemic.

  2. Jen says:

    You should probably get your well water tested.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    “As previously noted by Law&Crime, Twitter is a private company and therefore has a First Amendment right to moderate its platform as it sees fit. The First Amendment also protects the company from having a government actor dictate how it operates its online platform, a point the company makes in the opening lines of the lawsuit.”

    Masterpiece Cake Shop is a private company and it didn’t have any rights to not bake cakes for deviant malefactors, and people celebrated using the force of government and lawfare to harass and harangue Masterpiece. OK, I celebrate and applaud Paxton for using lawfare to attack businesses that I disagree with, like Twitter.

    Look at NY AG Letitia with the good hair, who actually RAN and WON on a campaign promise of, “I’ll use my office not to seek justice, but to attack Trump, who we all hate.” Lawfare.

    So as long as we celebrate using government to punish political enemies, then we should all be celebrating Paxton’s attacks on Twitter and other social media companies.