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Trump Suing Google, Facebook, Twitter Over Censorship

Trump Suing Google, Facebook, Twitter Over Censorship

“There is no better evidence that big tech is out of control than the fact that they banned the sitting president of the United States earlier this year. If they can do it to me they can do it to anyone.”

Former President Donald Trump filed lawsuits against Google (owner of YouTube), Facebook, and Twitter in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida – Miami Division.

“I stand before you this morning to announce a very important… development for our freedom and freedom of speech,” Trump declared from his New Jersey golf club. “In conjunction with the America First Policy Institute, I’m filing as the lead class action representative [in] a major class-action lawsuit against the big tech giants including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, as well as their CEOs.”

The three platforms blocked Trump permanently after the Capitol Hill riot on January 6th.

Trump continued: “There is no better evidence that big tech is out of control than the fact that they banned the sitting president of the United States earlier this year. If they can do it to me they can do it to anyone.”

Trump points to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the lawsuits:

3. Twitter has increasingly engaged in impermissible censorship resulting from threatened legislative action, a misguided reliance upon Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230, and willful participation in joint activity with federal actors. Defendant Twitter’s status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor, and as such, Defendant is constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions it makes.

4. Legislation passed twenty-five (25) years ago intended to protect minors from the transmission of obscene materials on the Internet, and to promote the growth and development of social media companies, has enabled Defendant Twitter to grow into a commercial giant that now censors (flags, shadow bans, etc.) and otherwise restricts with impunity the constitutionally protected free speech of the Plaintiff and Putative Class Members.

5. The immediacy of Defendants’ threat to its Users’ and potentially every citizen’s right to free speech cannot be overstated. Defendants’ callous disregard of its Users’ constitutional rights is no better exemplified than in the matter currently before the Court.

Section 230 allows the “platforms to moderate their services by removing posts that, for instance, are obscene or violate the services’ own standards, so long as they are acting in ‘good faith.'”

Section 230 also exempts the companies “from liability for the material that users post.”

Trump and other Republican conservatives insist the social media companies “have abused that protection and should lose their immunity.” They claim the companies consistently target conservatives and those with non-leftist views. Their evidence includes allowing tyrants and dictators like the Iranian regime to keep their accounts.

From Fox News:

“While the social media companies are officially private entities, in recent years they have ceased to be private with the enactment and their historical use of Section 230, which profoundly protects them from liability,” Trump said. “It is in effect a massive government subsidy, these companies have been co-opted, coerced and weaponized by government actors to become the enforcers of illegal, unconstitutional censorship.”

Trump called social media companies “the de-facto censorship arm of the U.S. government.”

He added that “this was especially clear during the pandemic,” citing policies against contradicting health experts and the fact those companies suppressed information alleging that the coronavirus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

America First Policy Institute (AFPI) will lead Trump’s lawsuit.

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Comments

legalizehazing | July 7, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Hmmm “good faith” I’m curious what our legal experts think about these arguments

    Desdenova in reply to legalizehazing. | July 8, 2021 at 5:00 am

    This is unprecedented because it pits free speech up against the 1st amendment which is being used to SILENCE speech. This decision will be about whether these tech giants are really private and not an extension of a political party. I disagree with those using traditional definitions of “private” to describe them. This is all new subject matter for the courts.

Not sure how far he’ll get with the argument that they are government actors. Personally (though IANAL) I would think there would be more traction to get showing that they are not acting in good faith.

Either way, it’s still a hail mary lawsuit. I don’t see our current courts ruling in favor of free speech or of Donald Trump.

    lichau in reply to irv. | July 7, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    TDS rules the day in the public sector. I would love to see what percentage of GS-14 and above voted for Biden. My guess north of 90 percent.

      The Friendly Grizzly in reply to lichau. | July 7, 2021 at 1:54 pm

      What would you expect from a bunch of losers who can’t get real jobs, or, quota-hires?

        The “losers’ needs some qualifications. Look at their working conditions, job security, compensation, benefits, retirement, medical care, etc. “Losers”?

          henrybowman in reply to lichau. | July 7, 2021 at 6:57 pm

          I can’t figure out whether you’re describing high-tech companies or Congress. As far as I’m concerned, the same answer applies. I fatten up my pigs, but at the end of the year, it doesn’t make them winners.

    henrybowman in reply to irv. | July 7, 2021 at 6:00 pm

    “Not sure how far he’ll get with the argument that they are government actors.”

    I’m still laughing about how Google was able to rename its holding company “Alphabet” (as in “alphabet agencies”) completely under the radar from almost everybody.

      Lucifer Morningstar in reply to henrybowman. | July 8, 2021 at 9:24 am

      I’m still laughing about how Google was able to rename its holding company “Alphabet” (as in “alphabet agencies”) completely under the radar from almost everybody.

      And I’m laughing even more because Google just didn’t rename a holding company but created the holding company known as Alphabet Inc. as an umbrella corporation to put all its sundry and varied endeavors under as fully owned subsidiaries. Up until then Google was an independent company. Now it’s a fully owned subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. along with the rest. Alphabet was created to keep control of everything. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Desdenova in reply to irv. | July 8, 2021 at 5:03 am

    Have you heard all the arguments? Not sure how you concluded its a long shot given this is the first am silencing free speech and that question has never been litigated. This is a very clever legal argument and not all legal scholars agree its DOA.

    Desdenova in reply to irv. | July 8, 2021 at 5:08 am

    Hail Mary? This has never been litigated. The courts have never been asked to rule on a case where the 1st am is being used to silence free speech. This is the biggest free speech case in history. Not sure how you concluded its a hail Mary since its a novel argument.

    bullhubbard in reply to irv. | July 9, 2021 at 9:24 am

    It’s pretty obvious to everyone that the SM giants were and are promoting the political agenda of one faction over another; if you like, the interests of the Democratic Party over the Republican Party. Any review of messages transmitted during the Presidential election, by Trump and/or many other sitting elected officials, will demonstrate there really is not much difference in actual content as opposed to tone, given Trump’s idiosyncrasies.

TheOldZombie | July 7, 2021 at 12:43 pm

I don’t think this goes very far. It should but it won’t.

The courts aren’t going to do anything. Fixing this has to be done by Congress.

    dging in reply to TheOldZombie. | July 7, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    I agree. 302 and 1st amendment appear to be losing arguments. They’re private companies, not state actors. When I first heard about the suit, I thought it would be breach of contract. The user agreement says they can ban you for a breach of their terms of service. But if they do, they have to apply those terms equally to ALL their users, not just the ones they don’t like.

    Trump agreed to let them make TONS of money by posting his comments, using his name and using his clicks, and to agreed to their terms of service. In return, the companies agreed to apply the rules equally. If they don’t apply them equally, the breached their contract.

    A first grader could prove the companies didn’t apply the rules equally. I think he has them dead to rights on breach of contract. 302 and 1st amendment – not so much.

    Desdenova in reply to TheOldZombie. | July 8, 2021 at 5:09 am

    Not if there are damaged parties.

CountMontyC | July 7, 2021 at 1:07 pm

It may be a longshot but if he wins it could pay off in multiple ways. Firstly it would force Facebook and Twitter to adopt politically neutral policies on posts. Secondly it would put other big tech companiespanies on alert that they could be next forcing them to be less biased. Finally a large enough award could be used to start up rival platforms to Twitter and Facebook. All that with very limited downside risk.

    henrybowman in reply to CountMontyC. | July 7, 2021 at 6:15 pm

    I hate to say it, but Trump’s main value at this point may be just to be “my lovely assistant, Wendy” while real magicians are performing the trick across the stage. Trump’s efforts seem to attract some of the most incompetent and self-promoting legal help ever — such as Sidney “Kraken” Powell, who (despite her egotistical claims) has yet to present a coherent elections case anywhere; and Lin Wood, who despite his welcome victory for Nick Sandmann, appears to have subsequently screwed-over Kyle Rittenhouse unconscionably.

    But meanwhile, where the MSM doesn’t want you to watch, Project Veritas is prosecuting quite similar cases against the NYT and Twitter, and consistently making headway and winning.

    Veritas needs your donations to support their efforts (Trump has enough money to fund the June Taylor Dancers to fancy up his own sideshow). And best of all, you can shove a stick in the eye of the IRS, because donations to Veritas are fully tax-deductible.

I am not a lawyer and didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn. Although I have paid a lot of law school tuition.

I think it swings on the degree to which these companies are private entities. To what degree does “you didn’t build that” apply. I am quite confident that if it were BLM, some LGBTQWXYZ, et. al. ox that was getting gored, that concept would be immediately applied. If you are a baker that won’t bake custom cakes for some protected subspecies, it is applied with a vengeance.
ALL these social media companies were heavily involved in the last campaign. Made a lot of money off clicks by incumbent politicians seeking reelection. They get public money, directly and indirectly.
I don’t think they have much to fear. They get the “no reasonable prosecutor” card to play. At worst, John Roberts will decide it is a tax.

Universities are held to be quasi-public entities as long as they take public money in any fashion. Which, except for Hillsdale, they all do.

    DaveGinOly in reply to lichau. | July 7, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    It’s interesting that you bring up the “baker” controversy. Because there are two things going on here:
    1. Suppression of political speech/opinion
    2. Biased application of said suppression

    I’ve argued that the baker must bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding because he bakes wedding cakes for others. But the baker can refuse to bake a “transition” cake because he bakes such cakes for nobody. This argument is applicable to the instant situation.

    Big tech has been silencing conservatives almost exclusively. Even if they have a right to censor on their own platforms, they still have to apply their TOS rules without bias. If they’re going to censor, they must censor everyone appropriately. Conversely, if they’re going to allow certain types of speech, they must allow everyone those types of speech. When users sign up, acceptance of a platform’s TOS creates a contract in which the user agrees to abide by the rules and the contract implies fairness in the application of those rules. (Nobody would ever enter into a contract with an understanding that its terms will be unfairly enforced. Acceptance of the terms therefore implies an expectation by the user that the platform will treat him fairly.)

    Note that the platforms always plead that they are unbiased in their application of their rules. They say this because they understand that a claim of unbiased application of the rules is the core of their defense, and not the fact that they can censor as they please on a privately-owned platform.

      lichau in reply to DaveGinOly. | July 7, 2021 at 2:27 pm

      I agree that the baker isn’t quite apples and apples. I also agree that private entities, such as FB should have broad discretion as to how they conduct their business. I think the “right to refuse service” should be broadly construed, but understand I am in the minority in that view.

      I think that the baker controversy hinges on the “creation” of the cake. The baker in question was quite happy to sell his off-the-shelf product to whoever walked in the door. Muffin, doughnut or wedding cake. The question, IMO, was he compelled to provide his labor and creative talents celebrating something he found repellant? Forcing him to do so seems to me to be forced labor–thought that went out of style in 1865.

      BTW, I will have a lot more respect for those who say he should be so compelled the day that they insist that some Muslim baker bake a cake with a figure of Mohammed on top. I am not holding my breath.

      The fig leaf here is that Facebook, et. al. claim that they apply the same “terms of service” to everyone. That their beyond top secret algorithms are neutral. Also, that they are simply a publisher, not an originator. Where is that line? They step over any conceivable line on a regular basis.

      Was there no monopoly considerations when Amazon, and others “took down” Parler?

      Excuse me for my view that if the shoe were on the other foot, things would be wholly different.

        DaveGinOly in reply to lichau. | July 7, 2021 at 6:09 pm

        The baker voluntarily asked for, and accepted, a license from the state. The state issues businesses licenses not just for the benefit of the licensee, but also for the benefit (in the form of employment and goods & services) of the communities the licensees serve. The licensee can’t be the subject of “involuntary servitude” when he has accepted a license from the state issued, in part, for the purpose of serving the community in which the licensee conducts business. If the licensee offers a service, he must provide that service to anyone who is able to pay for it, excepting persons who are prohibited access to the goods or services by law. The state expects its licensees to serve everyone without prejudice of any kind (again, excepting state-authorized prejudice, like “no guns allowed”). The licensee voluntarily accepts this responsibility when he accepts a business license.

        I’ll entertain the argument that the business owner shouldn’t be required to have a business license. I will not entertain the argument that the holding of a state-issued business license permits the holder to discriminate (except as authorized by law), nor the argument that the state can’t require the license holder to abide by its rules, regulations, and laws. (I get a kick out of people who glibly defend big tech because they’re “private businesses” and “can do what they want” as if private businesses aren’t regulated by the state up the wazoo. “Private” businesses are only “private” in so far that they are not owned by the state. They are not “private” like a person’s private property, such as a home. Big tech can be brought to heel just as the baker can be forced to sell a cake for a gay wedding, because both are subject to control through their state-issued licenses.)

          henrybowman in reply to DaveGinOly. | July 7, 2021 at 6:31 pm

          “The baker voluntarily asked for, and accepted, a license from the state.”

          I object to this premise vehemently. When the state makes it illegal for you to ply your chosen trade without obtaining a license, your showing up hat in hand to obtain such a license implies no voluntary motive whatsoever.

          As for gun owners, the governor [Romney] proposes tripling licensing fees. Why? “If people want a gun, they have to pay for it. If they want to hunt, they have to pay for it.” I for one don’t need any gun license, I don’t want it, and it doesn’t provide anything for me.
          –TONY LAKE, GUN OWNERS’ ACTION LEAGUE

          That’s the proper viewpoint.

          Not sure that I accept the idea that the government can mandate a person violate their religious and moral convictions by passing a law or rule saying they have to.

          At some point in time, the basic idea is still that rights are owned by the individuals, and the government cannot impede on those rights without a compelling interest.

          In the Masterpiece Cake case, there is no compelling interest as other bakeries were willing to make the cake.

          If you really want to go down the path of “because the government says so,” you are going to be stepping on previous cases which stated that newspapers do not have to print ideas and letters with which they disagree.

          If newspapers cannot be forced to print items, a baker does not have to create something he disagrees with.

          Desdenova in reply to DaveGinOly. | July 8, 2021 at 4:55 am

          Good Lord where did you learn that? The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution is in play here and no state statute or city ordinance can suppress the free expression of religion. The 1st amendment reigns supreme over city licenses. The test is whether the act forces artisan expression contrary to religious beliefs. You could not be any more wrong.

          Milhouse in reply to DaveGinOly. | July 8, 2021 at 7:10 pm

          If the licensee offers a service, he must provide that service to anyone who is able to pay for it, excepting persons who are prohibited access to the goods or services by law. The state expects its licensees to serve everyone without prejudice of any kind

          Where on earth did you get this idea? There is nothing like this known to the law.

          I will not entertain the argument that the holding of a state-issued business license permits the holder to discriminate (except as authorized by law),

          Whether you “entertain” it or not, that is the undisputed law. Though “authorized” should read “forbidden”. And it has nothing to do with licenses.

          SDN in reply to DaveGinOly. | July 8, 2021 at 8:09 pm

          Milhouse, he got it the same place all of the Left does: the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which plainly states that if a business opens its’ doors to the “public”, it becomes a “public accommodation”, and must offer its’ services to anyone who walks through the doors. Just as Goldwater claimed.

I’m interested in seeing some commentary on this:

Marsh v Alabama (1946) (https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/326/501)

The case arose from the efforts of a company to squelch the First Amendment rights of the inhabitants of what was literally a company town – a town entirely owned by the company with the townspeople inhabiting the company’s private property as others might inhabit any other town or city.

From Marsh:
“The State urges in effect that the corporation’s right to control the inhabitants of Chickasaw is coextensive with the right of a homeowner to regulate the conduct of his guests. We can not accept that contention. Ownership does not always mean absolute dominion. The more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it.”

The lawsuit probably won’t win in the courts, but it is a great political ploy to rev up the conservative and libertarian base. Also, the suit adds to the concept that we should push back instead of always meekly submitting to the progressives’ actions.

Antitrust, via collusion and abuse of the marketplace.

    daniel_ream in reply to maxmillion. | July 7, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    Soi-disant conservatives really don’t get how much repealing or restricting s.230 is only going to hurt them. There’s a reason none of the social media giants care about that.

    Antitrust, unlawful collusion, restraint of trade – that scares them.

    As more of a libertarian conservative I see antitrust suits as just as much an infringement of liberty as forcing web sites to carry whatever drivel anyone spouts, but at least on the issue there’s case law that disagrees with me.

michellevallie | July 7, 2021 at 2:50 pm

Marsh v. Alabama was the 1946 Supreme Court case which found that First Amendment protections for free speech can be applied to private sector actors in some circumstances. In the case, a company town owned by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corp. sought to bar free speech on its sidewalks, claiming that the First Amendment only proscribed government censorship, not private sector actions. In a 5-3 decision authored by First Amendment champion Hugo Black, the high court disagreed, finding that when the private sector actor owns and controls the de facto “public square,” then Americans’ constitutional protections still apply. Justice Black noted that “[t]he more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it.” The Court continued, “Whether a corporation or a municipality owns or possesses the town[,] the public in either case has an identical interest in the functioning of the community in such manner that the channels of communication remain free.” Accordingly, the Court reversed Marsh’s conviction, concluding that the state could not use a trespass law to punish Marsh for distributing religious literature on the sidewalk of a company town.
The Marsh case has remained a guiding principle of constitutional law. Two decades later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 limited private property owners’ ability to refuse entry or service to individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin in places of public accommodation. Additionally, Marsh became the conceptual foundation for Prune Yard Shopping Center v. Robins (1980) and other cases in which individuals claimed First Amendment rights of speech and free exercise in shopping malls, airports, and other quasi-public spaces. Interestingly, in a 2017 case, Packingham v. North Carolina, the court made clear that the Big Tech social media sites have become THE public square of our time, ruling unanimously that even convicted sex offenders cannot be blocked or censored from Facebook and Twitter.
Therefore, legal precedent is pointing toward regarding social media as a public forum and thus, the 1st Amendment applies.

    This sounds spot on. But are President Trump’s lawyers good enough to bring it up? He’s had bad luck with legal representation before.

    daniel_ream in reply to michellevallie. | July 7, 2021 at 3:24 pm

    Now do Kelo vs. New London, CT.

    Desdenova in reply to michellevallie. | July 8, 2021 at 5:11 am

    Great points!

    Desdenova in reply to michellevallie. | July 8, 2021 at 5:17 am

    The court did the same in Pruneyard v. Robbins. They stated private property rights are negated if protestors or petitioners are protesting government on private property where the company invited the public, them they can’t be told to leave the property. The “its their platform its their rules” explanation is over simplistic as courts have carved out lots of exceptions.

caseoftheblues | July 7, 2021 at 3:14 pm

There have been multiple FOIAs around the country that have revealed government agencies reaching out to and getting the results they wanted of silencing dissent and political opposition….any chance this would impact this case?

The water is somewhat poisoned by a deep mistake in the Civil Rights Law, which took away freedom of association as a protection for no good reason.

It would have been enough to take away freedom of association in monopoly markets (whether de jure or de facto).

As it is, you need another constitutional right to defeat this mistake, say freedom of religion, to get freedom of association back.

Were the Civil Rights Law (correctly) limited to monopoly markets, then it’s no stretch to see that the Tech Overlords are a monopoly market, and it’s legitimate to protect freedom of speech owing to the monopoly (de facto), just as it was to protect previous civil rights.

Suggested law: must publish any content that is not illegal to publish.

    daniel_ream in reply to rhhardin. | July 7, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    It’s not illegal to publish porn on the Internet. Or advertising. Of course you can drive up someone’s hosting costs pretty severely just by deluging their site with massive automated text streams.

    You’re so focused on GIBSMEDATFORFREE that you haven’t thought this through at all.

Most likely it’ll come down to … their platform … their rules …

    lichau in reply to PODKen. | July 7, 2021 at 5:55 pm

    As long as their rules work to the detriment of causes favored by Trump and Deplorables in general.

    DaveGinOly in reply to PODKen. | July 7, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    I just posted this above: “I get a kick out of people who glibly defend big tech because they’re “private businesses” and “can do what they want”, as if private businesses aren’t regulated by the state up the wazoo.”

    I’ll add here, how well did that argument work in the states where lockdowns went into effect, and “non-essential” businesses were ordered to close? Did you hear anyone applying the “private business” argument in defense of big tach employing the same argument against the lockdowns?

    SDN in reply to PODKen. | July 8, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    Except that pesky 1964 Civil Rights Act.

My prediction is a liberal judge will dismiss.

There is a key difference between Packingham v. North Carolina and the Trump case.

In Packingham, the person was banned from all social media and could not even create a individual website.

Trump can still be on social media, but was banned from two of the companies.

The Court ruled that the government could not mandate a total ban of speech by Packingham.

That’s not even close to what Trump is dealing with.

Secession.

You’ll see.

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