Twitter isn’t happy that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an investigation into the company after it banned former President Trump. CBS News reports Twitter has sued Paxton in federal court, alleging the AG is violating the First Amendment by trying to punish the social network for exercising free speech rights over the content it hosts. Paxton was using the “full weight” of his position as retaliation over editorial choices he didn’t like, Twitter’s attorneys said.
Paxton himself had claimed Twitter’s ban “chills free speech” and accused multiple tech giants of a “seemingly coordinated deplatforming” of Trump following the Capitol riot. He echoed frequent conservative beliefs that Twitter, Facebook, Google and others are breaking the spirit of the First Amendment with an alleged bias against right-wing views. These sites should be treated as public spaces and forced to carry any otherwise legal content, according to these beliefs.
Twitter may have a solid case, however. As a private company, Twitter is within its rights to determine what it does and doesn’t publish. It might also point to a long history of refusing to ban Trump despite repeated violations of its policies, instead relying on labels or limitations on specific tweets. This wasn’t a company that rushed to ban a dissenting view, in other words.
Paxton’s office hadn’t formally commented as we wrote this, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he fought hard to protect the investigation. It could rally political supporters at a time when Paxton himself is facing scandals, such as accusations of bribery and abuse of office. A successful probe could also lead to punitive actions against Twitter, such as fines or an order to reinstate Trump’s account.