On January 13, five days after the company suspended Trump in light of the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol, Paxton announced that he had begun an investigation into content modification policies at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Apple.
“Transparency and First Amendment rights must be preserved for the free internet community to function and thrive,” he said in a statement at the time. “However, abolishing the seemingly coordinated statute of the president of the United States and many of the leading voices not only discourages freedom of expression, it also completely silences those whose political speech and beliefs do not align with the leaders of major tech companies.”
However, Twitter emphasized in its file that First Amendment protection measures ensure the company’s ability to define what is allowed on its platform, as well as what should be removed or restricted. The company said that cooperating with the state’s request to obtain “quantities of highly confidential documents” related to content stewardship would undermine the effectiveness of Twitter’s policies and harm its ability to implement such moderation.
The company said it tried to reach an agreement with the Texas attorney general to limit the scope of the request by his office, which had sought after all of the company’s policies, but the parties were unable to do so.
“Instead, AG Paxton has made it clear that he will use the full weight of his office, including his broad investigative powers, to retaliate against Twitter for making editorial decisions he does not agree with,” the company said.
Twitter representatives and the Texas attorney general did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Paxton has quarrels with the social media platform in the past over policies of moderation in content, and confirmed in an opinion piece on Fox News last May that Twitter fact-checkers were politically biased against Trump.
However, Twitter was not the only platform that took action against Trump in response to the events of January 6. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, all took their own steps to punish him. Unlike Twitter, they all restored the former president’s accounts, although he didn’t post any new posts after leaving his post.
Bringing the case to court is the latest development in an ongoing battle between social media companies and those on the right, who have seen attempts to verify content and cancel conservative accounts as an indication of a culture of societal cancellation aimed at silencing republican voices.
The conservatives held up the accusations against the big tech companies as a rallying cry in the wake of the riots, With some speculating that it may be the main issue of the Republican Party for the midterm elections and in 2024. Anti-Silicon Valley sentiment is now a defining topic for the Republican Party, which in recent years has summoned chief executives for hearings. Last fall, Trump appointees filed two major antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook.