Texas AG Investigates Twitter For ‘Deceptive Practices’ Over Bots

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Republican attorney general of Texas starts investigation of Twitter, after Elon Musk’s public complaints about bots and fake accounts

Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general of Texas, has opened up a new front against social media firms, with an investigation of Twitter.

Earlier this week Elon Musk once again threatened to walk away from his $44 billion (£36bn), or $54.20 per share offer to acquire the platform.

Musk in a letter sent to Twitter, warned he may withdraw if the microblogging platform does not provide data on spam and fake accounts.

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Image credit: SpaceX

Musk’s bot complaint

This was the second threat from Musk about the deal.

Last month Musk temporarily placed the deal on hold over concerns about Twitter’s estimate of the number of automated bots on the service.

Twitter in late April had said that less than 5 percent of Twitter users were spam or fake accounts.

Musk however believes the true figure of fake or bot accounts is closer to 20 percent or more, but critics believe he is simply using this bot issue so as to renegotiate the deal below his $54.20 percent offer.

Twitter’s board of directors meanwhile have warned Musk they will ‘enforce’ the $54.20 takeover agreement.

Texas investigation

Now the Texas Republican attorney general Ken Paxton, who in February this year sued Meta, alleging it captured and used biometric data of millions of Texans, announced he is now investigating Twitter.

Elon Musk of course is now a resident of Texas, after relocating from California in 2020, citing that state’s high taxes and red tape.

Meanwhile AG Paxton, who according to CNBC, was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, was himself indicted on securities fraud charges seven years ago, but has not yet stood trial.

AG Paxton announced he had launched an investigation against Twitter for potentially false reporting over its fake bot accounts in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Paxton alleges that Twitter’s estimate that 5 percent of all users are bots, “when they may in fact comprise as much as 20 percent or more….could dramatically affect the cost to Texas consumers and businesses who transact with Twitter.”

Twitter’s defense

“Texans rely on Twitter’s public statements that nearly all its users are real people,” said Attorney General Paxton. “It matters not only for regular Twitter users, but also Texas businesses and advertisers who use Twitter for their livelihoods.

“If Twitter is misrepresenting how many accounts are fake to drive up their revenue, I have a duty to protect Texans,” he said.

Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal has previously defended Twitter’s estimate of the number of automated bots on the service.

Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal. Image credit: Twitter
Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal. Image credit: Twitter

He said Twitter uses a combination of public and private data to identify bots and that accounts that appear fake may actually be operated by real people.

Musk responded at the time to this with his own tweet featuring a poo emoji.

Paxton it should be noted was also responsible for the controversial Texas social media law (HB 20), which prohibits social media companies from “de-platforming” users based on their political views.

The US Supreme Court last week reinstated a pause on HB 20.