Trump vs. The Internet: Can He Win?

Former President Donald Trump announced he has filed groundbreaking lawsuits against Twitter, Facebook, and Google after the firms suspended his social media accounts six months ago over his comments after the Jan. 6 Capitol incident.

Trump and his team said the lawsuits are about protecting the First Amendment right to free speech after the three big tech companies censored him and many of him supporters.

Trump described the “major” lawsuits as a “very beautiful development” to protect free speech in the United States. The suits will be filed U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida and will ask a judge to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ alleged shadowbanning, censoring, blacklisting, and canceling of people who express political viewpoints outside the mainstream.

“We’re demanding an end to the shadow banning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing, and canceling that you know so well. Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s completely un-American,” Trump argued.

“Our filing also seeks injunctive relief to allow prompt restitution and really restoration, and you can name about 20 other things, and it has to be prompt because it’s destroying our country. Of my accounts, in addition, we are asking the court to impose punitive damages on these social media giants. We’re going to hold big tech very accountable. This is the first of numerous other lawsuits, I assume, that would follow.”

“But this is the lead and I think it’s going to be a very, very important game changer for our country. It will be a pivotal battle in the defense of the First Amendment. And in the end, I am confident that we will achieve a historic victory for American freedom, and at the same time freedom of speech.”

Twitter, Facebook, and Google said in January they banned Trump due to the fact that he pointed out irregularities in the 2020 presidential election that many suspect were indications that the election was hijacked by Joe Biden.

The three platforms also alleged that Trump contributed to the Jan. 6 riot that took place on Capitol Hill.

Twitter executives have said Trump’s ban will be permanent, Facebook imposed a two-year ban on the former president’s account, and Google-owned YouTube has said it would curtail his suspension until it has determined if “the risk of violence has decreased.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were named in the lawsuits—as well as the companies themselves.

Trump argued that social media companies have “ceased to be private” companies and cited the Section 230 protection shield that such firms employ to protect themselves from liability. Republicans have argued that the federal rule has allowed Big Tech firms to censor their political opponents—while some have gone further, arguing that social media giants should be regulated as utilities.

“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 added.

“Once they got section 230, they’re not private companies anymore in a lot of views. No other companies in our country, and even in our country’s history, have had protection like this. It’s, in effect, a massive government subsidy. These companies have been co-opted, coerced, and weaponized by government and by government actors to become the [enforcers] of illegal, unconstitutional censorship. And that’s what it is at the highest level, censorship.”

Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act allows internet companies to be generally exempt from liability for the material that users post. The law, which provides a legal “safe harbor” for internet companies, also allows social media 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.”

Trump’s lawyers said the lawsuit will focus on provisions in Section 230, which they argued was created in the 1990s to protect children from harmful content online. The way in which Big Tech firms currently use the law as a shield, his team argued, oversteps what it originally intended to do.

“They are not immune anymore,” lawyer Pam Bondi said.

Author: Ryan Werst