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Texas Attorney Ken Paxton launches Twitter bots investigation

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a news conference after the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in President Joe Biden’s attempt to repeal a Trump-era immigration policy that forced migrants to stay in Mexico to await US hearings on their asylum applications in Washington. USA, April 26, 2022.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

Texas State Attorney Ken Paxton said Monday that his office is opening a Twitter investigation into the number of bot accounts on the platform.

“Attorney General Paxton issued a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) to investigate whether Twitter̵[ads1]7;s reporting of genuine versus fraudulent users is” false, misleading or misleading “under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act,” his office said in a press release.

Paxton requires details on 23 items, including comprehensive data on the social network’s daily, monthly and revenue-generating active users. He also asks for “documents sufficient to show the number of unauthentic Twitter accounts for each month from 2017 to date, broken down by category of unauthentic account (ie fake account, spammer account and bot account) if available.”

Paxton, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, was himself charged with securities fraud seven years ago, but has not yet stood trial.

His investigation into Twitter was launched the same day that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, through his lawyers, threatened to withdraw from his deal to buy Twitter for around $ 44 billion due to what he says are concerns about fake accounts. spam and robots. .

In a letter they sent to Twitter on Monday, Musk’s lawyers said he has the right to access data from Twitter that could help him determine how many robots are on the platform. The letter also said that Twitter “opposes and thwarts” Musk’s right to this information, which constitutes a “clear material breach” of the terms of their merger agreement.

Marc Fagel, a securities law expert who previously served as regional director of the SEC’s San Francisco office, said Paxton’s announcement is a bit unusual because such cases are not usually handled at the state level.

“States are not necessarily equipped to do this kind of sophisticated investigation,” Fagel said. “It’s one thing if you’re dealing with a local company, but if you’re talking about a national, listed company in another state, it’s the province of the SEC.”

Elon Musk, during an event at SpaceX Headquarters in Hawthorne, California, USA, on Thursday, October 10, 2019.

Bloomberg / Getty

Last year, Musk moved the headquarters of the electric car maker to Austin, Texas, from Palo Alto, California, followed by opening a huge Tesla plant outside Austin this year. He also moved his home to Texas in 2020.

SpaceX, Musk’s reusable missile company, operates a significant production and launch facility in Brownsville, Texas, and wants to expand the operation pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

In addition to bringing high-profile businesses to Texas, Musk has emerged as a champion of many conservatives in the past due to his criticism of Twitter, which has started a number of prominent conservatives from the platform, including Trump. Last month, Musk said he plans to vote for Republicans in the upcoming election.

Musk has often taken to Twitter, where he has 96.8 million followers, to criticize President Joe Biden and other Democrats.

A San Francisco-based Twitter spokesman declined to comment on Paxton’s investigation.

Some Twitter shareholders are reluctant to release Musk from the hook despite his apparent case of buyer remorse. They are suing him in the state of California to ensure that the agreement goes through at the agreed price of $ 54.20 per share.

SEE: Twitter shares under pressure

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