Twitter gave Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) a taste of his own medicine on Monday.
The tech giant sued the Texas official in federal court in San Francisco, alleging that he retaliated against the company after it banned then-President Trump for inciting violence during and after the deadly Capitol insurrection earlier this year.
Days after the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, Paxton issued a civil investigative demand against Twitter after it banned Trump from its platform. The tech giant on Monday requested a temporary restraining order that would put a halt to Paxton’s efforts to obtain documents that would disclose the company’s internal decision-making processes for booting users.
Prior to his lawsuit against Twitter, Paxton made headlines late last year for egging on Trump’s bogus election fraud claims by filing an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to overturn election results in several key battleground states. More than half of House Republicans signed an amicus brief in Paxton’s suit, indicating Trump’s ironclad influence on the GOP. Paxton also peddled Trump’s falsehoods when he spoke at the rally in Washington, D.C. with Trump hours before the deadly Capitol insurrection.
In its complaint filed Monday, Twitter took aim at Paxton’s demand by arguing that public disclosure of highly confidential documents involving the platform’s internal content moderation processes would “undermine their effectiveness” and “compromise” its effectiveness in moderating user content.
Twitter said that it unsuccessfully attempted to reach an agreement with Paxton for weeks to put some limits on the scope of his demand. Twitter said it was left with no choice but to sue the Texas attorney general when Paxton signaled that he would use his position as the state’s top lawyer to “retaliate” because he disagrees with the platform’s approach to moderation.
“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 complaint said. “Now Twitter, already targeted because of its protected activity, is left with the untenable choice to turn over highly sensitive documents or else face legal sanction.”
Twitter characterized Paxton’s investigation into its moderation processes as a violation of the First Amendment.
“AG Paxton’s retaliatory investigation and intrusive CID are precisely the sort of ‘threatened legal sanctions,’ ‘coercion,’ and ‘intimidation’ forbidden by the First Amendment,” the complaint reads. “The investigation and CID unlawfully intrude on Twitter’s internal editorial processes and burden its protected activity, and do so solely because Twitter exercised its First Amendment rights in a way disagreeable to AG
Twitter noted that it has taken on additional financial costs and employee time in order to comply with Paxton’s CID as it decried the Texas attorney general for trying to “punish” and pressure the platform into changing its editorial decisions on user content.
Twitter also argued that Paxton “consented, and waived any objection, to jurisdiction and venue in the Northern District of California” by agreeing to the platform’s user agreement, which dictates that legal disputes related to the tech giant’s terms or services must be litigated only in federal or state courts in San Francisco County, California.
Additionally, Twitter cited Paxton’s crusade against the platform over the past three years, based on complaints from Trump and his allies that the tech giant is biased against conservatives. Twitter pointed to Paxton’s attendance at a “listening session” called by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018 to supposedly address the anti-conservative bias as an example.
Toward the end of the complaint, Twitter maintained that it made “good faith efforts” to narrow the scope of Paxton’s investigation into the platform.
“The CID is an official demand from a state official and expressly threatened legal action in the event of noncompliance,” the complaint reads. “Thus, Twitter expected that noncompliance would result in an enforcement action or even in AG Paxton filing suit against Twitter under the Texas statutes named in the CID.”
Read the complaint below: