Former President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday sued three tech giants – Facebook, Twitter and Google – and the company’s executives after the platforms took various steps to ban him or block him from publishing.
Speaking from his Bedminster, NJ golf club, Mr Trump announced that he would serve as the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, arguing that he was wrongly censored by the tech companies. Regarding “Free Speech” and the first amendment – which applies to the government, not to private sector companies – Mr. Trump called his lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday: “a very nice development “.
His political operation immediately began to raise funds.
At the event and in court documents, Mr. Trump’s Legal Department argued that the tech companies were state actors and therefore the First Amendment applied to them.
Legal experts said similar arguments had repeatedly failed in court.
“Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t work for the government, Jack Dorsey doesn’t work for the government,” said Eric Goldman, law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute, of the Facebook and Twitter chiefs. “The idea that we can somehow magically treat them as an extension of government is illogical.”
Social media companies are allowed to moderate their platforms according to current law. They are protected by a provision known as Section 230, which exempts internet companies from liability for what is posted on their networks and also allows them to remove posts that violate their standards.
The lawsuit calls on the court to declare “unconstitutional” section 230, which Mr. Trump has railed against, and restore access to the former president’s websites and the other members of the lawsuit who have been banned. The lawsuit also calls for tech companies to be prevented from “censoring” Mr. Trump in the future.
“Our case will prove that this censorship is unlawful, unconstitutional and completely un-American,” Trump said. “If you can do it to me, you can do it to anyone.”
Twitter declined to comment. Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
In a way, the lawsuit seemed like a promotional game as well – Mr Trump took the opportunity to re-attack some of his preferred unrelated political goals – as an actual legal move. Mr Trump also said Wednesday that he would pursue his anti-tech corporate agenda in Congress, in state parliaments and “ultimately in the ballot box.”
Before Mr Trump finished speaking, both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had texted the lawsuit asking for contributions. Mr Trump’s Political Action Committee sent its own request shortly after the event ended. “Donate NOW,” it said.
The former president made the announcement with the America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit led by government veterans including Brooke Rollins, former director of the Domestic Policy Council and Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration was active.
“There is no precedent for an American president suing large media companies in court – nor is there any precedent for an American president mandating the judiciary to shape the landscape of American freedoms after his presidency,” Rollins said in a statement .
Blake Reid, a clinical professor at the University of Colorado Law School who studies the intersection of law and technology, puts it another way: “The lawsuit is a legally frivolous publicity stunt that has essentially no chance of succeeding in court , but a high chance of attracting a lot of attention. “