DALLAS — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday that a lawsuit by Twitter won’t deter his office from investigating the content moderation practices of the social media giant and four other major technology companies.
Twitter sued the Republican official this week in an effort to halt his probe, which the company claimed was retaliation for banning the account of former President Donald Trump following the deadly January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Days after the riot, Paxton announced an investigation of what he called “the seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President.” His office demanded a variety of records and internal communications from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Apple.
On Monday, Twitter asked a federal judge in California to effectively stop the probe and affirm that its decision to ban Trump was protected by the First Amendment. Paxton responded Wednesday that “most of the companies have cooperated” and called Twitter’s suit “remarkable.”
“Apparently they have some fear of disclosing what they’re actually doing if they’re asking a California judge to rule on Texas law,” he said during an online forum hosted by the conservative Media Research Center. In its demand for records, Paxton’s office cited the authority of Texas’ Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.
Lawyers for Twitter wrote in their complaint that the company had sought for weeks to “put reasonable limits on the scope” of Paxton’s demands but were unable to reach an agreement with his office. A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment Wednesday.
The legal wrangling comes as states, in addition to federal lawmakers and governments outside the U.S., are cracking down on tech companies that they see as having amassed too much power.
Separately, Texas is leading 10 Republican attorneys general who are party to a lawsuit accusing Google of running an illegal digital-advertising monopoly in cahoots with Facebook.
Paxton is also facing his own legal troubles. The FBI is investigating whether the close Trump ally broke the law by allegedly using his office to help a wealthy donor who is also under federal investigation. Eight of Paxton’s top deputies last year accused him of bribery, abuse of office and other crimes in the service of an Austin real estate developer who employs a woman with whom Paxton is said to have had an extramarital affair. All eight were either fired or resigned after coming forward with the allegations.