Twitter sues Texas AG alleging retaliation for Trump ban
11.03.2021 | Kirsten Williams | Vermont Law School, US MARCH 10, 2021 05:12:35 PM | 929
Twitter launched a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday, alleging he “abused his authority as the highest law-enforcement officer in the state” by unconstitutionally retaliating against the social media site for its decision to permanently ban former president Donald Trump from its platform following the January insurrection in Washington, DC.
The 19-page complaint, filed in California federal court, alleges that over the past three years, “AG Paxton has expressed interest in using the powers of his office” to address a supposed bias in Twitter’s editorial decisions. The rights of free speech and that of the press enshrined in the First Amendment afford Twitter 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,” said the complaint.
According to Twitter, the former president posted “false, disputed, misleading and inaccurate information with increasing frequency” following the November 2020 election. Twitter alleges that in the weeks following the election, it added some 200 warnings to Trump’s Tweets/Retweets about the election.
The company’s complaint pays special attention to Trump’s Twitter activity in early January 2021. The platform permanently banned Trump’s account on January 8, 2021, citing repeated violations of its “Glorification of Violence” policy. In response to Twitter’s move—and similar decisions made by other major platforms—Paxton voiced his disagreement and declared, “as [Attorney General], I will fight them with all I’ve got.”
On January 13, Paxton issued civil investigative demands (CID) to five leading technology companies, including Twitter, “seeking 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.” The other companies were Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.
Twitter labels Paxton’s probe as nothing more than an attempt to “intimidate, harass, and target” the company in retaliation for its decision to ban the former president. “The investigation and CID unlawfully intrude on Twitter’s internal editorial processes and burden its protected activity, and do so solely because Twitter exercised its First Amendment rights in a way disagreeable to AG Paxton,” said the complaint. “This retaliatory conduct violates the Constitution.”