Social media giant Twitter is suing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for opening an investigation into its practices during the 2020 election; particularly, its banning of Donald Trump from its platform.
“Twitter seeks to stop AG Paxton 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 social media giant wrote.
The Texas Attorney General had announced an investigation into potential 2020 election interference of Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple on January 13.
“First Amendment rights and transparency must be maintained for a free online community to operate and thrive,” he said in the statement. “However, 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.”
The state of Texas is thus taking concerted action against Big Tech abuses of power. The Lone Star state’s officials have made it clear they intend to protect election integrity and and free communication among the state’s citizens.
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott revealed he was working with state senators on measures that would “prevent social media providers like Facebook & Twitter from cancelling conservative speech.”
The social media giant is defending its purported right to ban whomever it likes for any reason, including differences of political opinion.
Twitter filed its lawsuit in a court in Northern California. The company argues that, “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.”
Twitter thus admits that it is editorializing with its decisions to ban Republicans and conservatives from its platform. This is a direct conflict with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields Twitter from lawsuits over the content on its social media platform.
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” states 47 U.S.C. § 230.
“In other words, online intermediaries that host or republish speech are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do,” states the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
There are a number of legal and ethical issues involved with a social media platform that relies on Section 230 protections banning political figures in the midst of election campaigns. Those issues deserve to be full vetted, and appropriate legal actions and protections taken to serve the interests of the American public.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.