Twitter sues Texas AG for violating its free speech

The fallout from Trump ban continues, as Twitter calls investigation unconstitutional

Blue Twitter banner

Twitter has sued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for launching an investigation into its content-moderation practices, arguing it violates the company’s First Amendment rights.

The company filed a complaint in Northern California's district court this week, arguing Paxton's investigation was retaliation for its decision to ban former-President Donald Trump's tweets in January.

"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," the company said.

Twitter had moderated Trump's content several times, first checking a Tweet about mail-in ballots in California in May 2020 and restricting his tweets repeatedly since.

The company locked Trump's account on January 6 as he encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol, resulting in riots and rioters and police officers’ deaths. At the time, the company requested the removal of three tweets for violating its civic integrity policy. It said if Trump failed to remove the tweets or Trump continued violating its rules, Twitter would make the lock permanent.

Twitter permanently banned Donald Trump's account on January 8, after he posted more tweets the company said violated its Glorification of Violence policy. Facebook also banned Trump posts, and YouTube blocked Trump from new uploads following the Capitol riots. Amazon also discontinued hosting services for conservative social network Parler, and Apple banned the service from its app store. 

Paxton launched an investigation into Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google on January 13, five days after the Twitter ban. The Twitter investigation sought documents detailing the company's internal content-moderation process. 

When announcing the investigations, Paxton called out "seemingly coordinated de-platforming" of Trump that silenced those with speech and political beliefs that don’t align with Big Tech companies.

Twitter argued that disclosing its content-moderation processes would harm its editorial discretion. 

"These moderation policies and procedures are functionally equivalent to the internal editorial decision-making processes of news organizations: just as newspapers and magazines carefully guard their internal deliberations about what news they see as fit to print or what op-eds they will publish, so too does Twitter guard its internal deliberations and procedures for making editorial judgments," Twitter said. 

The social media giant added that Paxton's investigation had a chilling effect on its ability to make those decisions.

The company said it attempted to work with Paxton's office to narrow the investigation’s scope, pointing out the request covered documents outside the Trump decision, including policies on posts involving suicide and self-harm. The investigation also explicitly called for information on internal discussions about Parler, even though Twitter has never censored any of Parler's content on its platform.

The lawsuit calls for a restraining order against Paxton's office to stop it from taking the investigation further.

This is not the first investigation to scrutinize content-moderation policies at Twitter and other large tech companies. In December, the FTC launched a wide-ranging investigation calling for information on internal moderation processes at companies including Twitter.

Featured Resources

Choosing a collaboration platform

Eight questions every IT leader should ask

Download now

Performance benchmark: PostgreSQL/ MongoDB

Helping developers choose a database

Download now

Customer service vs. customer experience

Three-step guide to modern customer experience

Download now

Taking a proactive approach to cyber security

A complete guide to penetration testing

Download now

Recommended

YouTube growth spikes as most other social media sites stagnate
social media

YouTube growth spikes as most other social media sites stagnate

8 Apr 2021
Supreme Court justice targets social media
Policy & legislation

Supreme Court justice targets social media

6 Apr 2021
Congressional leaders grill tech CEOs over misinformation
Policy & legislation

Congressional leaders grill tech CEOs over misinformation

26 Mar 2021
Here’s what big tech CEOs will say at today’s Congressional hearing
Policy & legislation

Here’s what big tech CEOs will say at today’s Congressional hearing

25 Mar 2021

Most Popular

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages
data centres

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages

7 Apr 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

8 Apr 2021
UK exploring plans to launch its own digital currency
digital currency

UK exploring plans to launch its own digital currency

19 Apr 2021