Twitter has begun a lawsuit to stop an investigation by the Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, into its moderation practices, see HERE.
Twitter claims the lawsuit is an attempt to:
…intimidate, harass, and target Twitter in retaliation for Twitter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights”
Twitter further claims that the investigation amounts to a retaliation against them for the removal of the Twitter account of Donald Trump.
The Attorney General stated that:
“First Amendment rights and transparency must be maintained for a free online community to operate and thrive”,
He referred to a coordinated attempt to de-platform Donald Trump and others whose views do not align with ‘big tech’.
It is a stretch to call removing and editing content, on a what is supposed to be a platform for users to share their own content, free speech. It is even more of a stretch to claim that being required to reveal the detail and any possible pattern behind such editing and removal, is a threat to free speech.
Twitter may fear that revealing their moderation policies would lend further support to them being treated as a ‘publisher’ under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996 (US legislation, see HERE), which would among other things, subject them to libel actions.
I am not a US lawyer and no expert on this legislation, but considering the ordinary meaning of the word ‘publisher’, if Twitter are making editorial decisions and are removing content that is not in any way unlawful, it is difficult to argue that they are not a publisher as opposed to merely a platform.
Additionally, their complaint about wanting ‘First Amendment rights’ to determine what content is allowed on their platform, suggests that they are a ‘publisher’.
If there is a specific political agenda behind their moderation policies, they may not want this to be exposed.