Hey, remember a couple weeks back, when an 18-year-old gunman entered a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school and murdered 19 children and two adults with the weapon he’d bought just days earlier? And the police inexplicably waited outside? And then numerous parts of their story changed re: why they’d screwed up the situation so badly? As we assume the answer to all those question is yes, you can probably also tell us why this announcement from the Texas attorney general’s office is completely and totally bizarre:
Yes, that’s the Texas A.G. alerting people that some portion of his office’s time will be devoted to investigating spam accounts on Twitter. Are bots annoying? Sure. Would Twitter be better off without them? Probably. Do most Texans care that much about them, to the extent that they think they need “protect[ing]” by the Texas A.G.? We’re going to take a wild guess here and say no. But you know who’s extremely concerned about about the Twitter bot situation, insofar as he appears to be trying to use it to get out of the deal he signed to buy the tech giant? Come on down, Elon Musk.
As CNBC notes, the Texas A.G.’s probe was launched the very same day that the richest man in the world threatened to back out of his agreement to purchase Twitter for $44 billion (or $54.20 per share), over concerns about bots. In a letter his attorneys sent to the company, the Musk representatives claim that Twitter has been “resisting and thwarting” the Tesla cofounder’s right to information re: the number of fake accounts on the site, and that the alleged resistance constitutes a “clear material breach” of the terms of their agreement. Musk has been whining about the bot situation for some time now in an obvious attempt to back out of the deal, but as Bloomberg’s Matt Levine wrote on Monday, the pretext that Twitter supposedly has more fake accounts than he thought wasn’t actually a good one—in fact, one of Musk’s stated reasons for buying the site was to, in his own words, “defeat the spam bots or die trying!”—so his lawyers came up with the one about him trying to get data from Twitter and Twitter saying no. (As Levine also writes, it’s easy to see why Twitter would not want to hand over sensitive user data to Musk, given (1) the many “regulatory and risk reasons to be nervous about sharing user data with someone who, for now at least, does not work at Twitter” and (2) the fact that Musk is massive troll.)
Anyway, why is the Texas attorney general’s office spending literally any time on this, time that could be better spent looking into what happened in Uvalde last month? Here’s where we remind you that Texas’s attorney general is Ken Paxton who, in addition to having been personally indicted for felony securities fraud—he’s pleaded not guilty and has yet to stand trial—is a Donald Trump superfan. In other words, he’s got a type, and it’s conservative blowhards who try to use the government to go after their enemies. Meanwhile, Paxton’s investigation is not only a ridiculous waste of Texans’ taxpayer dollars, but as Marc Fagel, a securities law expert, told CNBC, it doesn’t even fall under his job description. “States aren’t necessarily equipped to do this sort 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, publicly traded company in another state, that’s the province of the SEC.” As Levine wrote today, “Paxton is happy to hitch himself to [Musk’s stunt]: If he harasses Twitter on Musk’s behalf, he will endear himself to Musk’s fans online, which seems valuable for an elected official though not, of course, for his constituents, or for the rule of law.”