Trump sues Facebook, Twitter, Google alleging violation of First Amendment
On Wednesday, former US President Donald Trump announced that he will move court against Facebook, Google, Twitter, and their CEOs. The lawsuits seeking class-action status allege that the Big Tech companies violated Trump's First Amendment rights. His lawyers will also ask a judge to invalidate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Meanwhile, experts say the "complaint is hard to even make sense of".
Following the January 6 Capitol Hill events, then-President Trump lost access to his social media accounts after Big Tech said he violated policies against glorifying violence. Addressing a conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump said he will file three suits—one against Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, one against Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey, and one against Google and its CEO Sundar Pichai.
Announcing the litigation, Trump said, "We're demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing, blacklisting, canceling, and shaming you know so well." Interestingly, the announcement comes just a week after the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg were indicted on 15 counts of felony for allegedly scheming to avoid paying taxes on $1.7 million of compensation.
In one suit, Trump called Facebook a "state actor" while the suit against Pichai reportedly names Google-owned YouTube as the defendant. Trump's lawyers are seeking class-action status for all the lawsuits so they can represent other users of Facebook, Twitter, and Google's YouTube who have been unfairly silenced. Trump said, "We will achieve a historic victory for American freedom and freedom of speech".
The lawsuits are supported by a non-profit group called the America First Policy Institute. Two leaders from the group were present at Trump's conference in Bedminster. Strangely, Trump's lawyers have filed the suits in a district court in Miami, Florida. Engadget observed that this could be a possible roadblock since Facebook and Twitter's terms mandate that cases against them must be filed in California.
The ex-President's lawyers will plead to invalidate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, called the backbone of the internet, that provides websites legal immunity from liabilities arising due to user-generated content. The law shares similarities with India's recently introduced guidelines for intermediaries. Trump and others attacking Section 230 allege that it has been misused by Big Tech to evade responsibility for their actions.
This action comes more than two months after Facebook's Oversight Board called Trump's suspension from the platform "appropriate". The ban will be extended until at least January 2023. Trump reportedly called Facebook's move a "total disgrace and an embarrassment to our country". Separately, Reuters reported that Paul Gowder, a law professor at Northwestern University said, "This complaint is hard to even make sense of".
Referring to Trump's suit that called Facebook a "state actor," Gowder said nothing in the lawsuits "even comes close to turning social media companies into government actors" since the companies aren't subject to the same censorship-related First Amendment requirements as government entities. At the time of publishing, Twitter refused Reuters' request to comment while representatives of Google and Facebook didn't immediately respond.