Former president Donald Trump on Wednesday filed class-action lawsuits targeting Facebook, Google and Twitter, escalating his long-running battle with the companies following their suspensions of his accounts.
Legal experts and business associations immediately criticized the claims, predicting they had little chance of succeeding in court. But the lawsuits, filed in federal district court in Miami, raised a series of legal claims that will find favor among Trump’s most fervent supporters who have long argued that the social media companies treat conservative voices unfairly.
“We’re demanding an end to the shadow banning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and canceling that you know so well,” Trump said.
The suits allege that the companies violated Trump’s First Amendment rights in suspending his accounts and argues that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which is owned by Google, no longer should be considered private companies but “a state actor” whose actions are constrained by First Amendment restrictions on government limitations on free speech. Traditionally, the First Amendment constrains only government actions, not those of private companies.
The lawsuits also called for the court to strike down Section 230, a decades-old Internet law that protects tech companies from lawsuits over content moderation decisions.
The suits seek unspecified punitive damages.
Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School in California, said dozens of similar lawsuits have failed in court. He said Trump is “playing a standard media game. It fits into a broader pattern of the former president bringing lawsuits and then not vigorously pursuing them.”
“There’s no way a plaintiff has been able to get traction in the past, and there’s no way that Trump is going to be able to get traction either,” he said.
Paul Barret, the deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, said the lawsuits were dead on arrival.
“Trump has the First Amendment argument exactly wrong,” he said in a statement. “In fact, Facebook and Twitter themselves have a First Amendment free speech right to determine what speech their platforms project and amplify — and that right includes excluding speakers who incite violence, as Trump did in connection with the January 6 Capitol insurrection.”
Just last week, a federal judge used similar reasoning to block a Florida law that sought to penalize tech companies that suspended politicians in the run-up to an election. The Florida law, District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote, would likely be found unconstitutional because it “compels providers to host speech that violates their standards.”
Legal experts said Trump’s claim that the companies should be considered “state actors” also is unlikely to succeed.
OUR LEGAL VIEW: Social media companies receive Section 230 Protections in order to indemnify them from users posting unlawful, harmful and offensive materials. So why do they need to “Censor” anyone? While they should remove unlawful materials like child pornography, drug and human traffic materials, they are protected against any lawsuits resulting from such materials posted on their websites. So why do they need the Section 230 Protections if they are going to remove it anyway? But they retain that protection. In doing so, they should not be permitted to remove anyone from their platforms since that protection was meant to allow everyone to use their platforms.
But here are some points we think should be considered by the Trump legal team:
- Those receiving Section 230 protection, essentially an Insurance policy like that of Banking institutions [also private entities] FDIC, and thus….like Banks… are subject to following Federal Law. Federal law prohibits suppression of speech.
- In the case of Trump, he has a vested interest in that he and his campaign invested millions of dollars in building his brand on Social media. The Social Media companies not only failed to fulfill their duty under financial agreement, they caused a severe financial loss.
- For anyone and everyone who suffered a loss of physical harms or disabilities do to COVID-19, they have cause of action against social media companies who suppressed information on treatments such as the hydroxychloroquine treatment and set off a domino effect of some states actually banning it’s use.