Twitter has asked a federal court to prohibit Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from continuing his investigation into the company's editorial policies, including its decision to ban former President Donald Trump from the platform.
“Twitter’s content moderation decisions, including its suspension or restriction of a Tweet, constitute First Amendment activity,” the company says in a complaint filed Monday in the Northern District of California. “Just like a newspaper or bookstore, Twitter provides a platform for disseminating ideas. And, just like a newspaper editor or bookstore owner, Twitter must make decisions about the content that is and is not presented through its platform.”
The company is seeking a declaratory judgment that Paxton's investigation violates the First Amendment, and an injunction barring him from continuing with the probe.
In January, Twitter and other tech companies suspended Trump's account shortly after an insurrectionist mob stormed the Capitol.
Several days after the account suspensions, Paxton demanded that Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Web Services and Apple provide detailed information to him regarding their content moderation policies.
Paxton said at the time that the “seemingly coordinated de-platforming” of Trump and others “wholly silences those whose speech and political beliefs do not align with leaders of Big Tech companies.”
Numerous judges throughout the country have said that private companies like YouTube and Facebook have a First Amendment right to decide what speech to allow on their platforms.
Twitter argues in its complaint that Paxton's investigation is unconstitutional for several reasons, including that he initiated the probe in order to retaliate against Twitter for editorial decisions that are protected by the First Amendment.
“AG Paxton initiated the investigation ... in order to use his official authority to punish Twitter for making content moderation decisions that he did not like, in the hope that Twitter would exercise its editorial discretion in a manner consistent with AG Paxton’s preferences going forward,” Twitter claims in its complaint. “The First Amendment forbids this use of government authority to penalize and inhibit Twitter’s speech.”
The company adds that the investigation is already having an impact on Twitter's right to decide what content to allow on its platform.
“Twitter is already bearing the costs of complying with AG Paxton’s improper investigation, imposed as punishment for its speech,” the platform argues. “It is already being forced to weigh the consequence of a burdensome investigation every time it contemplates taking action based on a rules violation by a user that AG Paxton favors.”
Paxton is expected to respond by March 22 to Twitter's request for an injunction.