Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton thinks Elon Musk seems to want “free speech to rule the internet” and would welcome it if the Tesla CEO decided to buy Twitter.
Musk has been locked in an ongoing legal battle with Twitter after walking away from a deal to buy the social media platform. The judge handling the case suspended proceedings on Thursday after Musk offered to move forward with the initial deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion.
“He seems like a guy who wants free speech to rule the internet,” Paxton told Fox News. “I welcome someone who comes into the market who just allows people to express themselves freely and doesn’t try to limit them based on their political positions or their religious positions.”
“These are sacred rights and sacred ideas on which our founders built this country,” Paxton added.
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The Attorney General has fought his own legal battles against the social media giants. On September 16, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Paxton and lifted a block on a Texas law that prohibits social media companies from banning users’ posts based on their political leanings.
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NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, whose members include Facebook, Twitter and Google, had sued Texas after the legislation passed. The plaintiffs argued that the law was unconstitutional and violated their First Amendment rights to preserve content that appeared on their platforms.
But Paxton thinks the censorship of posts by tech companies is a violation.
“We’re talking about people who can speak their minds,” he told Fox News. “If we don’t stop this, we’re going to lose the ability to virtually have freedom of speech in this country…which means there are huge benefits for people who hold more liberal views than for those with more conservative views.”
“So now the Fifth Circuit said, ‘hey wait a minute, you don’t have the ability or discretion to remove comments you don’t like or disagree with. as a business,'” Paxton said.
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The case centered on topics related to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The 1996 law protects Internet companies from lawsuits related to content posted on their websites by third parties.
In other words, Facebook, for example, would be protected if a user posted defamatory or slanderous content.
“Originally it was set up to allow them to be kind of like a billboard or a place where you can post information,” Paxton told Fox News. “They weren’t considered a publisher, so they weren’t responsible for what people put on those sites, and therefore couldn’t be sued for defamation or slander.”
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But now social media companies are acting as publishers, censoring content — especially conservative-leaning content — while still enjoying legal protection, Paxton said.
“If they can essentially stifle free speech and viewpoints — conservative and Republican views — they can give Democrats a huge advantage across the country in every race, from local to presidential,” he said. he told Fox News.
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“They’re arguing, first, they’re not a publisher, they can’t be sued, but then they’re acting as a publisher,” Paxton continued. “And so when these states come in and try to regulate this, they fight both sides.”
Moderation of content varies between social media platforms, but tech giants like Twitter and Facebook generally censor posts they deem to be misinformation or hateful or that promote violence. Paxton and other Republicans have argued that users and conservative viewpoints are disproportionately swayed in law enforcement by tech companies, even in cases that are later reversed.
“Our argument is that if you’re going to avail yourself of Section 230 protections and pretend you’re not a publisher, then you can’t act like a publisher and discriminate between viewpoints,” Paxton said. “You shouldn’t then be allowed to protect yourself from libel or defamation, because other publishers can’t.”
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But as Paxton celebrates his victory in Texas, a conflicting ruling over a similar law in Florida suggests the issue could go to the Supreme Court.
The Republican Attorney General speculated that “these tech companies that go by the name of NetChoice are going to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States and hope that the Court will agree with their position that they can benefit both of the 230 protection – claiming that they are not publishers – and also claiming that they are publishers when it comes to discriminating against viewpoints with which they do not agree”, a Paxton told Fox News.
“I hope the Supreme Court will not accept this argument,” he said.
Ramiro Vargas contributed the accompanying video.
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