Texas AG Appeals Order Blocking Investigation Of Media Matters

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday appealed an order that effectively blocked his investigation of the watchdog Media Matters, which issued a critical report about brand safety on the social platform X, formerly Twitter.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C. prohibited Paxton from attempting to enforce a subpoena for a trove of information, ruling that he likely violated Media Matter's First Amendment rights by issuing the subpoena in retaliation for the group's report about ads on X.

Paxton will ask the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift that injunction. The Texas official hasn't yet made substantive arguments to that court.

The dispute dates to last November, when Paxton said he was investigating whether Media Matters violated a Texas consumer protection law that prohibits “fraudulent acts.”



Paxton's office stated at the time that he was “extremely troubled” by allegations that Media Matters -- which he described as a “radical left-wing” organization -- “fraudulently manipulated” X's data.

He announced the investigation the same day X sued Media Matters for reporting that ads for brands including Apple, Bravo, IBM and Oracle were being placed next to pro-Nazi posts on the platform. X alleged that Media Matters “manipulated” X's algorithms in order to “bypass safeguards and create images of X’s largest advertisers’ paid posts adjacent to racist, incendiary content.”

X also said the ad placements highlighted in Media Matters' report were “inorganic” and rare.

Media Matters, which is fighting X's lawsuit, separately sought an injunction preventing Paxton from attempting to enforce a subpoena that demanded a host of documents -- including all internal and external communications regarding Elon Musk's purchase of X, all communications regarding the November report on brand safety, and communications with Apple, IBM, Bravo and other companies named in that report.

Mehta issued that injunction on April 12, writing in a 40-page opinion that Media Matters had proven its reporting activities were protected by the First Amendment, and that Paxton took action aimed at chilling the group's speech.

Mehta wrote that Paxton's investigation and subpoena caused MediaMatters “to self-censor when making research and publication decisions, adversely affected the relationships between editors and reporters, and restricted communications with sources and journalists.”

Paxton and Media Matters are expected to file a new round of papers with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by May 20.

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