Twitter really doesn’t want anyone looking into its censorship practices. The company on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to stop an investigation into its content moderation policies.
Politico reported, “the social media giant said in its filing that the investigation requested by Paxton was an abuse of his power and a retaliatory action over Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Donald Trump from the platform, which was the former president’s preferred method of communication with his supporters.”
The company wrote: “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.”
In other news, Twitter is still seeking to “intimidate, harass, and target” its conservative-leaning users in “retaliation” through censorship for expressing their opinions.
On Jan. 13, Paxton announced he would be launching an investigation into Twitter and other big tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. The probe is intended to look into how these companies conduct their content moderation policies and would ostensibly search for evidence of political bias in decisions related to censorship.
“First Amendment rights and transparency must be maintained for a free online community to operate and thrive,” Paxton insisted. “However, 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.”
Twitter’s lawsuit argues that the First Amendment protects its right to decide what they deem appropriate on its platform. The company claimed that complying with the state’s demand for “volumes of highly confidential documents” related to censorship would interfere with its ability to implement its moderation policies.
Twitter said it attempted to come to an agreement with the attorney general to limit the scope of the investigation, but they were unable to come to a satisfactory deal. “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 company asserted.
According to Politico, “Paxton has sparred with the social media platform in the past over its content moderation policies, asserting in a Fox News opinion piece last May that Twitter’s fact checkers were politically biased against Trump.”
But the attorney general decided to go the legal route shortly after Twitter, and other online platforms, decided to ban former President Donald Trump from its services, claiming concerns over incitements to violence. Since then, each company except Twitter has reinstated Trump’s accounts.
Paxton’s investigation is the latest development in a years-long conflict between leftist-run big tech companies and conservatives frustrated with being censored based on political affiliation. In his announcement, he said:
“First Amendment rights and transparency must be maintained for a free online community to operate and thrive. However, 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. Every American should be concerned about this large-scale silencing and the effects it will have on the future of free speech.”
If the court allows Paxton to continue his investigation, it is unclear what evidence might turn up. While former Twitter employees admitted that political bias, in large part, influences decisions regarding censorship, would any admissions such as these be included in any documents Twitter would have kept? Moreover, would the attorney general have legal recourse to punish the company if evidence showed censorship based on political affiliation?
Obviously, this type of investigation will raise questions about free speech and whether or not the government has the authority to conduct such a probe. Still, if the investigation goes forward, the information it reveals will likely cause the debate over online censorship to intensify. Needless to say, this argument isn’t going to be settled anytime soon.