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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Twitter Sues Texas AG, Claiming Retaliation for Trump Ban

'Paxton made clear that he will use the full weight of his office...to retaliate against Twitter...'

(Headline USA) Twitter has filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, claiming the Republican used his office to retaliate against it for banning the account of former President Donald Trump following the siege at the U.S. Capitol.

Days after the deadly January insurrection, Paxton announced an investigation into Twitter and four other major technology companies for what he called “the seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President.”

The attorney general’s office demanded that the companies produce a variety of records related to their content moderation policies and troves of internal communications.

Twitter responded Monday with a federal lawsuit alleging Paxton is seeking to punish it for taking Trump’s account offline — a decision the social media company says is protected free speech.

It asks a judge to declare the decision to be under the ambit of the First Amendment and to, in essence, halt Paxton’s investigation.

“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,” lawyers for the company wrote in the suit filed in a Northern California court.

Spokespersons for Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday evening.

Twitter’s counterpunch comes as states, in addition to federal lawmakers and governments outside the U.S., are cracking down on tech companies they see as having amassed too much power in the past decade.

This includes antitrust and anti-monopoly regulation, internet privacy laws as well as attempts to regulate how platforms like Twitter, Facebook and others moderate their sites.

In December, Paxton led 10 Republican attorneys general in suing Google for allegedly running an illegal digital-advertising monopoly in cahoots with Facebook.

GOP politicians in roughly two dozen states have also introduced bills that would allow for civil lawsuits against platforms for what they call the “censorship” of posts.

Almost always, this means what they view as the censorship of conservative or Christian religious viewpoints.

In launching his investigation, Paxton cited the First Amendment when he says tech companies’ banishment of Trump “chills free speech” and “wholly silences” those who disagree with them.

However, Twitter — as well as the other companies Paxton targeted, including Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon — is a private firm, so the First Amendment does not apply to its decisions on what material to allow on its services.

The companies do, however, outline in their terms and services assurances to treat users equally, so an abridgment of that agreement could be a possible legal line of attack.

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.

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