Paxton Issues Civil Investigative Demands to Tech Companies
Yesterday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (TX-R) issued civil investigative demands to five leading tech companies asking for their content moderation practices and policies.
Following the U.S. Capitol riots, tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple banned the social media application Parler from its platforms. They cited inflammatory posts that are thought to have amplified the violence of January 6.
Parler, an application that promises protection of free speech online, has existed since 2018, but saw its popularity surge in the final days of the 2020 election. The largely unmoderated platform saw a spike in new users after Twitter implemented warning labels on presidential tweets in efforts to combat fake news. Prominent conservatives encouraged their supporters to join the platform, including Sen. Ted Cruz (TX-R).
Recent GPS data has also shown that members of the far-right social platform were among the rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol.
In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued civil investigative demands for moderation practices and policies to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Web Services and Apple. He has asked for information specifically related to Parler.
The unilateral Parler bans triggered a renewed wave of defenders of free speech to condemn the power of big tech to regulate online speech. Business magnate Elon Musk, civil liberties advocate Ben Wizner and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among those who have expressed similar concerns over the obstruction of free speech by social media platforms. Separately, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed to lead an international effort to combat what he considers censorship by social media companies that have suspended the accounts of President Donald Trump.
“First Amendment rights and transparency must be maintained for a free online community to operate and thrive. 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. Every American should be concerned about this large-scale silencing and the effects it will have on the future of free speech,” said Attorney General Paxton. “The public deserves the truth about how these companies moderate and possibly eliminate speech they disagree with. I am hopeful that these companies will set aside partisan politics and cooperate with these CIDs in order to get to the bottom of this contention and ensure a truly free online community consistent with the highest American ideals.”