Former President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he is filing class action lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter, Google and its CEOs for allegedly violating the rights of First Amendment users when they banned him and several others from their jobs. platforms.
The lawsuits, which have been filed in conjunction with the populist pro-Trump America First Policy Institute, accuse technology companies of censoring users for their political views. There are no clear evidence so far shows that large technology companies systematically censor conservatives.
Basically, the cases have little legal merit and probably won’t go ahead, several constitutional law experts have told Recode. Similar cases presented by people like conservative activist Laura Loomer, who they allege that technology companies have an anti-conservative bias, have been thrown out of court in recent years.
It’s mainly because the First Amendment only protects people from government censorship – and companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are not the government. So even if these companies wanted to, say, hypothetically allow only liberal politicians on their platforms (which they don’t) – legally, they could. Second, a set of internet laws called Section 230 – that Trump he tried to cancel it by means of an executive order which Biden later changed – Specifically protects technology companies from being sued for content moderation decisions.
“From a constitutional perspective, the cause has little merit for the simple reason that Facebook and Twitter are corporations – privately owned, privately run and barely regulated,” wrote Sarah Ludington, professor and director of the First Amendment Clinic. in Duke Law School in an email to Recode. “It will be difficult to establish that banning Trump was” state action. ”
Technical companies have allowed Trump to stay on his platforms for most of his presidency – even when he has repeatedly violated his rules against publishing violent content and misinformation. It wasn’t until after the January 6 Capitol uprising that Facebook, Twitter and Google all temporarily or permanently suspends Trump from his platforms saying he incited violence in connection with the riots. Facebook’s independent monitoring board supports the decision in late May, saying Trump’s statements were a clear risk to public safety, and asked Facebook to deliberate further on a long-term decision on whether or not to allow him to return to the platform.
Trump’s latest lawsuit essentially argues that because technology companies like Facebook are so big and powerful, their “status exceeds that of a private company to that of a state actor,” according to the lawsuit against Facebook.
“[Trump] could expect a dramatic revolution in the law, “Howard Wasserman, a professor of law at Florida International University, wrote in an email to Recode.” But no court has accepted or even shown to have been a little convinced by these arguments. . “
A Twitter spokesman declined to comment. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Google did not respond to a request for comment.
At a nearly an hour-long press conference announcing the cause Wednesday, Trump exploited unproven conservative accusations that technology companies were conspiring against his supporters.
“Social media has given extraordinary power to a group of big tech giants working with the government, the mainstream media, and a large segment of a political party, to silence and suppress the opinions of the American people,” he said. Trump.
While it may be true that these cases are unlikely to win in court, it is also true that a large segment of the American population is distrustful of government, the media and technology. According to a Pew 2020 survey, some three-quarters of Americans think that social media intentionally censors people for their political views. Although social media companies have constitutional protections here against Trump’s latest spurious legal claims, these lawsuits can also negatively influence the political perception of companies with conservative users who support Trump.
And laws can change. Republican lawmakers introduced new legislation Wednesday to more strictly control how social media moderates content, including restricting the laws in Section 230 that largely protects technology companies from being cited in the case by its users.
So while it’s unlikely that Trump’s trials will go very far, the political battle over how social media companies will moderate their sites will continue.
Rebecca Heilweil contributed to refer to this article.