Donald Trump sues Facebook, Twitter, and Google—but legal experts say it’s just for attention
During a lengthy press conference in unforgiving summer temperatures at his golf club in New Jersey, Trump accused three of the country’s largest tech companies of censoring him and other conservatives.
The president demanded an “immediate halt to social media companies’ illegal, shameful censorship of the American people.” Representatives from America First Policy Institute, a pro-Trump group that is supporting the lawsuits, joined him on stage as he commented on their appearance. Big Tech, said the former president, had never faced a legal team as good looking as his and that they would win because they were very attractive, “like a picture.” He added that they were also very competent.
The lawsuits come after Twitter, Facebook, and Google-owned YouTube kicked the former president off of their platforms in the aftermath of the deadly U.S. Capitol riot on January 6. Representatives for the companies said they feared that Trump would use social media to incite more violence.
Trump has a long history of threatening legal action without much follow-through, and he also has a history of using such announcements to deflect from other negative news. Last week the Manhattan district attorney’s office brought a 10-count indictment on The Trump Organization, accusing the Trump-owned company of fraud and tax evasion.
The lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter, and Google, filed in Southern Florida, all ask the court to award the former president with damages, declare section 230 (which provides immunity for companies over what third parties post to their websites) unconstitutional, and to restore Trump’s accounts.
Legal precedent also doesn’t bode well for any such suit filed against these companies. The First Amendment applies to the government, not private companies. That means companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google are actually protected by the First Amendment to determine what speech is promoted on their own platforms.
“Of course these lawsuits are mockable and will fail. Trump rarely files lawsuits because he expects to win in court,” wrote Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California. Goldman analyzed 61 similar cases brought by individuals who had their accounts terminated by tech companies, all of which failed. “As usual, media coverage is his goal,” wrote Goldman.
Immediately after the press conference ended, Trump-adjacent groups began sending fundraising text messages to supporters citing the lawsuits.
The former president, who is said to be considering a 2024 run, has had trouble getting his message to the public without the help of social media platforms. Last week, former Trump senior adviser Jason Miller reportedly helped launch a new app called Gettr which purports to be a “non-bias social network for people all over the world.”
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