“Twitter sues Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, asks court to halt his investigation of the social media company” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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Twitter filed a lawsuit against Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a California federal court Monday and asked a judge to halt the state’s top lawyer from investigating the company.
The social media giant’s court filings include 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, among other things.
Paxton, a fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump, sent the company a civil investigative demand after it banned Trump from its platform following January’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol.
Twitter wrote that it seeks to stop Paxton from “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.
A spokesperson for Paxton did not immediately respond for comment.
Before Democratic President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Paxton filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results in four battleground states. It was considered a long shot, but drew support from the Republican attorneys general of 17 other states before the U.S. Supreme Court briskly rejected it.
The attorney general is among Texas Republican leaders who have launched a campaign against technology and social media companies after officials and followers faced repercussions for sowing the election doubts that fueled the Capitol insurrection.
Twitter is 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 U.S. 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.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott touted Texas legislation that seeks to crack down on social media companies’ perceived censorship of conservative voices. Senate Bill 12 would prohibit social media companies — including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — from blocking, banning, demonetizing, or otherwise discriminating against a user based on their viewpoint or their location within Texas.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, has identified the bill as one of his 31 priorities for this legislative session. State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, is sponsoring the measure. He filed a similar bill in 2019 that won Senate approval, but died in committee in the state House.
In its filings Monday, Twitter detailed their suspension of multiple accounts, including Trump’s personal account, which they banned for his false claims about the presidential election and the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. Five days after the president’s Twitter account was suspended on Jan. 8, Paxton issued the civil investigative demands to Twitter and four other tech and social media firms.
In the lawsuit, Twitter said while the company “strives for transparency,” the public disclosure of such documents would “compromise Twitter’s ability to effectively and efficiently moderate content on its platform.”
Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have come under fire for enabling misinformation spread and propagating violence like the Jan. 6 attacks. Last year, Democratic lawmakers presented a Congressional bill that would hold social media companies accountable for amplifying such content, but the proposal gained little traction.
Twitter’s suit comes as Paxton faces a series of other legal issues, including claims of abuse of office and bribery. Former aides allege the attorney general used his power to assist an Austin real estate developer with legal matters after he helped Paxton remodel his house and employed a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair. The whistleblowers’ allegations have reportedly sparked an FBI investigation.
Four of the former aides claim they were fired in retaliation for telling authorities they believed Paxton had done illegal favors for a political donor and are suing. During a March 1 whistleblower hearing, which Paxton did not attend, lawyers representing his office argued Paxton is not a public employee and cannot be sued under the Texas Whistleblower Act. The attorney general has previously dismissed the claims against him as “false allegations” from “rogue employees.”
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/03/08/twitter-texas-ken-paxton/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
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Liz Cheney Secretly Organized Key Move to Block Trump From Using Military to Overturn Election: Report
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was the organizer of an open letter by all living former Defense Secretaries against the military intervening in election disputes.
The revelation was made to Susan Glasser of The New Yorker by Eric Edelman, a friend of Cheney’s who served as an advisor to her father.
“Cheney’s rupture with the House Republican Conference has become all but final in recent days, but it has been months in the making. Edelman revealed that Cheney herself secretly orchestrated an unprecedented op-ed in the Washington Post by all ten living former Defense Secretaries, including her father, warning against Trump’s efforts to politicize the military,” Glasser reported.
“The congresswoman not only recruited her father but personally asked others, including Trump’s first Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, to participate. ‘She was the one who generated it, because she was so worried about what Trump might do,’ Edelman said. ‘It speaks to the degree that she was concerned about the threat to our democracy that Trump represented.’ The Post op-ed appeared on January 3rd, just three days before the insurrection at the Capitol,” she reported.
It wasn’t the only action she took.
“Little noticed at the time was another Cheney effort to combat Trump’s post-election lies, a twenty-one-page memo written by Cheney and her husband, Phil Perry, an attorney, and circulated on January 3rd to the entire House Republican Conference. In it, Cheney debunked Trump’s false claims about election fraud and warned her colleagues that voting to overturn the election results, as Trump was insisting, would ‘set an exceptionally dangerous precedent.’ But, of course, they did not listen. Even after the storming of the Capitol, a hundred and forty-seven Republican lawmakers voted against accepting the election results,” Glaser wrote.
The joint letter was signed by Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld.
“American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception,” the former defense secretaries wrote.
“Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived,” they explained. “As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, ‘there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.’ Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”
Arizona Trump ‘Audit’ Plagued With Problems — and Is Nowhere Close to Completion
The dubious Arizona election “audit” is plagued by problems and nowhere close to completion.
The Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, sent a letter Wednesday pointing out that ballots have been left unattended, laptop computers unlocked and unsupervised, and untrained workers are using inconsistent procedures to count more than 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, reported the Washington Post.
The review is far behind schedule, with only about 20 percent of the ballots counted after almost two weeks of work, and workers must vacate Veterans Memorial Coliseum when their rental agreement ends May 14, and the venue’s operators say previous commitments to a high school graduation cannot be undone.
Hobbs, the current secretary of state, said in her letter that elections are “governed by a complex framework of laws and procedures designed to ensure accuracy, security, and transparency” but the recount effort ordered by the GOP state Senate and led by Florida firm Cyber Ninjas “ensure none of those things.”
Former Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett, a Republican who’s acting as spokesman for the audit, did not respond to a request for comment by tweeted that Hobbs’ allegations were “baseless claimes [sic].”
“The audit continues!” read the tweet.
Volunteers are helping Cyber Ninjas, whose CEO pushes election conspiracy theories on Twitter, look for evidence of fraud that may have deprived Donald Trump of an election win.
Contractors have examined ballots under microscopes and UV lights to search for watermarks, based on claims that originated among Qanon conspirators, or traces of bamboo, which conspiracy theorists believe would prove the ballots were imported from China and, therefore, fraudulent.
“What they’re doing is to find out if there’s bamboo in the paper,” said John Brakey, an assistant to Bennett. “They’re doing all sorts of testing to prove if it was or wasn’t, and that’s very important, because the only way you’re going to persuade people on changing is having facts, and we’re on a mission for facts.”
Facebook Board Upholds Ban on Donald Trump – for Now
An external oversight board created by Facebook has upheld the social media platform’s decision to ban Donald Trump, saying on January 6 two of his posts “severely violated Facebook’s Community Standards.”
The board also told Facebook it has six months to re-examine its decision, essentially as CNN reports, punting the decision back to Mark Zuckerberg.
“However,” the oversight board’s 35-page decision adds, “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”
That essentially forces Facebook’s Zuckerberg to make a decision, and keep that decision in line with its standard policies.
JUST IN: ” The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account.”
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) May 5, 2021
“The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform,” the board adds. “Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months of the date of this decision. The Board also made policy recommendations for Facebook to implement in developing clear, necessary, and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect freedom of expression.”
The board also made clear the degree of damage and risk Trump inflicted.
“The Board found that, in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible. At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions. As president, Mr. Trump had a high level of influence. The reach of his posts was large, with 35 million followers on Facebook and 24 million on Instagram.”
This is a breaking news and developing story.
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