Twitter Sues Texas Lawyer Normal Ken Paxton, Asks Court docket to Halt His Investigation of the Social Media Firm

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Twitter filed a lawsuit against Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton in a California federal court Monday, asking a judge to prevent the state’s top attorney from investigating the company.

The social media giant’s court records include asking for an injunction preventing Paxton and his office from enforcing a demand seeking documents that, among other things, reveal the company’s internal decision-making processes for banning users.

Paxton, a passionate supporter of former President Donald Trump, sent the company a civil investigation request after Trump was banned from his platform following the deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol in January.

Twitter wrote that it is intended to prevent Paxton from “illegally abusing his authority as the highest law enforcement officer in the state of Texas to intimidate, harass, and target Twitter in retaliation for Twitter’s exercise of his First Amendment rights.” The company alleged Paxton’s “retaliatory” investigation violated the first amendment as an improper use of state authority.

A Paxton spokesman did not immediately respond to a comment.

Prior to the inauguration of Democratic President Joe Biden, Paxton filed a lawsuit to reverse election results in four battlefield states. It was considered a long shot but was backed by the Republican attorneys general of 17 other states before the US Supreme Court swiftly dismissed it.

The attorney general is among the Republican leaders in Texas who campaigned against tech and social media companies after officials and supporters had an impact on sowing the electoral doubts that fueled the Capitol riot.

Twitter is one of five tech and social media companies that Paxton has filed civil investigation requests to learn more about the procedures these companies use to regulate postings or user accounts.

Paxton, who attended the rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, criticized corporate steps following the siege, which included Twitter’s banning Trump from his platform.

“The seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President of the United States and several leading voices not only shakes free speech, but also silences those whose speech and political beliefs do not align with the leaders of big tech companies,” Paxton said in a Jan. 13 press release.

Last week, Governor Greg Abbott touted Texan legislation aimed at tackling the censorship of conservative voices perceived by social media companies. Senate Bill 12 would prohibit social media companies – including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – from blocking, banning, demonstrating, or otherwise discriminating against a user based on their location or location in Texas.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who chairs the Texas Senate, has identified the bill as one of his 31 priorities for this legislature. State Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, is sponsoring the measure. He tabled a similar bill in 2019 that received Senate approval but died on the State House committee.

In its filing on Monday, Twitter described the suspension of multiple accounts, including Trump’s personal account, which they banned because of his false claims about the presidential election and January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Five days after the president’s Twitter account was suspended on January 8, Paxton filed civil investigative claims against Twitter and four other tech and social media companies.

In the lawsuit, Twitter said that while the company “seeks transparency”, public disclosure of such documents would “affect Twitter’s ability to effectively and efficiently moderate content on its platform.”

Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have come under fire for allowing the spread of misinformation and the spread of violence like the January 6 attacks. Last year, Democratic lawmakers tabled a Congressional bill that would hold social media companies accountable for expanding such content, but the proposal received little support.

Twitter’s lawsuit comes because Paxton is facing a number of other legal issues, including claims of abuse of office and bribery. Former aides claim the attorney general used his powers to assist an Austin real estate developer on legal matters after helping Paxton remodel his home and hiring a woman Paxton allegedly had an affair with. The whistleblower’s allegations have reportedly sparked an FBI investigation.

Four of the former aides allege they were fired in retaliation for telling authorities they believed Paxton was doing illegal favors to a political donor and is suing. During a March 1 whistleblower hearing that Paxton did not attend, attorneys representing his office argued that Paxton was not a public employee and could not be sued under the Texas Whistleblower Act. The attorney general has previously dismissed the claims made against him as “false accusations” by “rogue employees”.

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