Ken Paxton apparently loves the taste of billionaire boots. The Attorney General seems to want his new-ish constituent, Elon Musk, to like him so bad, he’ll use all the legal resources of Texas to gain favor.
Today, Paxton announced a state investigation into Twitter for “potentially false reporting over its fake bot accounts.” The announcement came mere hours after Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, declared that Twitter had breached his buyout deal because of bots. The richest man in the world has been in tumultuous negotiations to buy Twitter for more than a month now, but seems eager to use the bot defense to back out.
Paxton filed the investigation under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which is meant to stop companies from misrepresenting themselves. He claimed that, by allowing for bots on the site, Twitter misleads users and businesses. In a press statement, the AG clarified, “Texans rely on Twitter’s public statements that nearly all its users are real people. It matters not only for regular Twitter users, but also Texas businesses and advertisers who use Twitter for their livelihoods.” Paxton added, “If Twitter is misrepresenting how many accounts are fake to drive up their revenue, I have a duty to protect Texans.”
He has given Twitter until June 27 to turn over documents on user data. If they don’t the company could be forced to pay a teeny-tiny $5,000 fine. What documents you ask? In a 23-item list, Paxton’s Civil Investigative Demand requests information from 2017 onwards about active Twitter users, internal evidence of the company’s 5% bot claims, as well as lots of stuff about advertising reach. Twitter declined to respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
The new investigation is not the first time Paxton has attempted to wage war against big tech. The AG has previously tried to sue Google for how it manages ad sales and Meta for its facial recognition data collection. He also sent a vaguely threatening letter to DirecTV, imploring the company to keep airing the pro-Trump propaganda network, One America News.
Although Paxton occasionally manages to eke out an accidentally good point, he seems more concerned with the definitions of words over the actual overreaches and problems of tech companies. He’s a textualist focused on Merriam-Webster instead of the constitution. That is, when he’s not too busy focusing on terrorizing trans kids or (maybe) committing fraud and other crimes.
In this newest probe, Paxton makes sure to explain that, “on Twitter, ‘bots’ are automated, non-human accounts that can do virtually the same things as real people: send tweets, follow other users, and like and retweet others’ posts. Spam accounts like these inflate followers...” In addition to “bot”, Paxton’s new civil investigative demand provides definitions for two full pages of other terms including “content,” “document,” “person,” and “and”.
In May, Paxton won his primary re-election—essentially guaranteeing himself another four years worth of tossing the dictionary at tech.