Texas AG investigates Twitter over bot counts

It's just a coincidence that Elon Musk does business in the state.

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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt talk to reporters after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in their case about Title 42 on April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. Paxton and Schmitt, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, are suing to challenge the the Biden Administration's repeal of the Trump Migrant Protection Protocols—aka “Remain in Mexico.”  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Texas's Attorney General, Ken Paxton, has launched an investigation of Twitter over concerns of "potentially false" reports related to the number of bots and other fake accounts on the social network. In a press release Monday, Paxton claims inauthentic accounts may be helping to "inflate the value" of Twitter — thus he intends to pursue the investigation under the state's Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which protects against misleading advertisers, businesses and everyday users. 

Paxton's office is pursuing the case just as Tesla CEO Elon Musk is seemingly attempting to scuttle his own bid to purchase Twitter. Musk has, for several weeks, been suggesting the platform's bot numbers may be far greater than its current leadership are reporting. It's interesting timing for Musk and Paxton's interests to align: Tesla just opened a Gigafactory in Texas, and is moving its headquarters to the region. That's a lot of potential business, and it comes as the state has offered tax breaks to companies building local facilities. For whatever it's worth, Paxton has previously been accused of abuse of office over allegations of bribery, but was eventually cleared by his own office.

Twitter has been ordered to provide unredacted documents detailing the company's active user counts since 2017, the volume of "inauthentic" accounts over that period and the methods used to calculate the ratio of fake accounts. It also has to outline its advertising model, including the revenue it generates in Texas.

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It's also notable that Musk's hopes of boosting free speech on Twitter sync with Republic aims to reverse alleged censorship of conservative viewpoints on the site. Twitter has long rejected claims of ideological bias, and sued Paxton over claims of political retaliation that infringed its First Amendment rights. 

We've asked Twitter for comment. The company has previously maintained that fake accounts represent less than five percent of users, but Paxton echoed Musk's currently unsupported concerns that fakes might represent 20 percent or more of all Twitter accounts.

The Attorney General has sued multiple tech companies over their practices, including Google (for its ad business) and Meta (over facial recognition). It's not clear yet if Paxton intends to pursue a lawsuit against Twitter as well.

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