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A federal judge in California on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Twitter against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose legal efforts to investigate the social media platform after it suspended President Donald Trump’s account led the company to sue.
Twitter’s lawsuit included a request for a temporary restraining order that would keep Paxton and his office from enforcing a demand that seeks documents revealing the company’s internal decision making processes for banning users. Judge Maxine M. Chesney said the company's legal action was “premature.”
Paxton, a passionate supporter of Trump, sent Twitter a civil investigative demand after it banned Trump from its platform following January’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. Twitter wrote in its suit responding to Paxton that it sought to stop him “from unlawfully abusing his authority as the highest law-enforcement officer of the State of Texas to intimidate, harass, and target Twitter in retaliation for Twitter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights.”
The company claimed Paxton’s “retaliatory” investigation violated the First Amendment as an inappropriate use of government authority.
“Twitter’s lawsuit was little more than an attempt to avoid answering my questions about their large-scale censorship and content-moderation policies,” Paxton said in a statement Tuesday.
Paxton’s legal back and forth with Twitter is just the latest in the GOP’s larger campaign against technology and social media companies after officials and followers faced repercussions for sowing doubts about the 2020 election that fueled the Capitol insurrection.
Paxton himself had been sowing doubts about the election for weeks leading up to the attack on the Capitol, and was co-chair of the Lawyers for Trump coalition.
Now, Paxton's legal actions have focused more on large social media platforms. Twitter is just one of five tech and social media firms to which Paxton issued civil investigative demands to learn about the procedures such companies use to regulate postings or user accounts.
Paxton, who attended the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, criticized companies’ moves after the siege, which included Twitter banning Trump from its platform.
“The seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President of the United States and several leading voices not only chills free speech, it wholly silences those whose speech and political beliefs do not align with leaders of Big Tech companies,” Paxton said in a Jan. 13 news release.
According to U.S. Code, an attorney general can issue a civil investigative demand during a racketeering investigation in order to acquire information or documents relevant to that investigation. These demands can be used to obtain evidence of a company’s procedures and policies. According to a press release, Paxton is using civil investigative demands to learn about the procedures that social media firms use to regulate postings or user accounts.
Recently, Paxton has faced separate legal action related to Twitter, from a group of Texas Twitter users who were blocked from viewing Paxton’s tweets from his @KenPaxtonTX account. The users said Paxton blocking them from his page was a violation of the First Amendment because it limited the rights of people to participate in a public forum and access statements made by the public official.
Paxton recently unblocked the nine Texans.