Former President Donald Trump has sued Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and their CEOs, upping the ante in his battle against the social media giants who blocked him.
Charging the effort at a press conference on Wednesday as a move to defend First Amendment rights, Trump has filed three separate class actions in Florida federal court against tech giants and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey from Twitter and Sundar Pichai from Google.
The lawsuits are asking for court orders to restore its social media accounts, as well as punitive damages, to ensure other users cannot be banned or reported by the tech giants. The legal team is led by John P. Coale, a general counsel involved in lawsuits against major tobacco companies.
“We’re going to hold big tech very responsible,” Trump said at the press conference at his Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone.”
Twitter permanently banned Trump in January for his role in feeding the crowd that attacked the United States Capitol on January 6 in a deadly riot to stop the Electoral College vote count for President Joe Biden. Facebook said last month that Trump would remain suspended from his networks for at least two years, with the possibility of being reinstated in 2023 if the risk to public safety wears off.
YouTube, Google’s giant video service, also froze Trump’s account in the wake of the January 6 riot. Videos of the former president are still accessible, but he is not allowed to post new videos. Susan Wojcicki, chief executive of YouTube, said the company would reverse its policy when it decided the “risk of violence had decreased”, without providing details.
Facebook, Google and Twitter declined to comment on the lawsuits, which have been criticized by tech-funded advocacy groups. NetChoice, whose members include Amazon and other tech companies, said the action showed a “deliberate First Amendment misunderstanding” and was without merit.
“President Trump has no record,” NetChoice CEO Steve DelBianco said in a statement. “The First Amendment is designed to protect the media from the president, not the other way around. “
Trump is seeking to repeal a federal law that protects internet companies from liability for content posted by users. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects social media platforms from lawsuits accusing them of unfairly deleting posts or accounts, among other legal challenges. The First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing tech companies to quit or cut certain categories of positions.
In the lawsuits, Trump argues that liability protections under Section 230 mean that social media companies should be viewed as government actors who can be sued.
Trump’s ban from major tech platforms has reignited calls from Republicans to revoke the legal shield, arguing that it allowed social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to censor conservative views.
The lawsuits aren’t the first time Trump has targeted Section 230. During his tenure, he attempted to get Congress to repeal Section 230 by threatening to veto a ministry spending bill. of the defense. Democrats have also proposed bills to reduce the legal shield to encourage tech companies to more aggressively rid their platforms of bigotry, abuse and harassment.
Tech companies have largely resisted the changes in the law, fearing the proliferation of lawsuits would force them to crack down on user-generated content. However, both Zuckerberg and Dorsey have expressed openness in recent months to Section 230 reforms.
Without access to the wide reach offered by social media giants, Trump has struggled to maintain an online presence. He closed his blog similar to “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” although he frequently sends out several press releases a day – often targeting other Republicans he deems insufficiently loyal.
Trump recently stepped up his public activity by restarting rallies and heading to the southern United States border last week to criticize Biden’s immigration policies. He supports the candidates in the 2022 midterm elections and actively opposes the others. He also considered running for president again in 2024.
The former president teased that he would launch a new platform that will not be able to remove him. He said on Dave Rubin’s “Rubin Report” podcast on June 25 that “there are a lot of platforms out there, that’s what we’re looking for, getting the right platform, one platform. perfect, and I think you’ll see something pretty soon. “
During his presidency, Trump used Twitter for everything from insults to his rivals to major political announcements, and he relied on Facebook in particular to raise funds from small donors.
A Florida law prohibiting social media platforms from suspending the accounts of political candidates was blocked by a federal judge earlier this month. Comparing the state’s law to “burning the house to roast a pig,” U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee said legislation passed by a Republican legislature and a priority of Governor Ron DeSantis violates the right to freedom. freedom of expression for companies.
The case is Trump et al v Twitter Inc et al, 21-cv-22441, US District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).