Donald Trump’s claim that Twitter violated his free-speech rights by bumping him off its platform failed to win over a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge James Donato on Friday threw out the former president’s challenge to his permanent ban from Twitter for stoking the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The San Francisco judge gave Trump’s lawyers a chance to revise the suit and try again, but warned they will have to show that Twitter was acting as a government censor.
“This is not an easy claim to make, for good reasons,” Donato said.
Trump’s lawyers had argued that Twitter was acting at the behest of the government because it suspended his account under pressure from Democratic lawmakers.
Trump vowed in recent media interviews not to return to tweeting even if he’s reinstated once Elon Musk, who has agreed to buy the platform, takes over. Musk claims Twitter has censored free speech.
If Trump does get reinstated on Twitter, he could potentially reconnect with more than 87 million followers as he weighs another run for the White House in 2024.
The former president is not in the legal fight alone. He is joined by a handful of other Twitter users who were thrown off the platform, including the American Conservative Union, who filed the case as a class action on behalf of others who claim they were censored.
Trump’s Twitter-like platform — “Truth Social” — debuted Feb. 21 with a glitchy start as users complained of receiving error messages and being placed on waiting lists that had hundreds of thousands of people ahead of them.
But Truth Social’s momentum picked up and Musk noted in an April tweet that the platform had risen to the top of the chart of Apple’s most-downloaded free apps, beating Twitter and video platform TikTok.
A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment on the ruling. Trump’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Twitter’s defense to Trump’s suit is that the company is a private actor that can decide who gets to use its platform and isn’t bound by the Constitution.
Donato said Trump’s suit was “a grab-bag of allegations” related to how lawmakers reacted to Trump’s tweets around Jan. 6.
“Legislators are perfectly free to express opinions without being deemed the official voice of ‘the State,’” the judge said. “Government in our republic of elected representatives would be impossible otherwise.”
Like Twitter, Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube permanently suspended Trump after a mob of his supporters raided the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump is challenging the Facebook and YouTube bans before another federal judge in northern California and Friday’s ruling could influence decisions about whether those suits are allowed to proceed.
Trump frequently clashed with Big Tech companies while he was president, accusing them of liberal bias and exhorting lawmakers to take away their legal protection under a 1996 law that shields internet publishers from liability for users’ posts.