Monday, January 24

Trump files lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

Former President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against three of the nation’s largest tech companies, alleging that he and other conservatives have been unfairly censored.

Trump announced the action against Google’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, along with the companies’ CEOs, at a news conference in New Jersey on Wednesday. He was joined by other plaintiffs in the lawsuits, which were filed in federal court in Miami.

“We demand the end of the shadow ban, the end of the silencing and the end of the blacklists, the banishment and the cancellation that you know so well,” he said.

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, social media platforms can moderate their services by removing posts that, for example, are obscene or violate the standards of the services themselves, as long as they act in “good faith” . The law also generally exempts Internet companies from responsibility for material posted by users.

But Trump and some other politicians have long argued that Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms have abused that protection and should lose their immunity, or at least have to earn it by satisfying the requirements set by the government.

Trump was suspended from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube after his followers stormed the Capitol building on January 6. The companies cited concerns that it would incite more violence.

Nonetheless, Trump has continued to spread lies about the 2020 election, claiming unsubstantiated that he won, even though state and local election officials, his own attorney general, and numerous judges, including some he appointed, have said there are no mass voter evidence. fraud, he alleges.

Facebook, Google and Twitter declined to comment on Wednesday.

The lawsuits argue that banning or suspending Trump and the other plaintiffs is a violation of the First Amendment, even though the companies are private. The lawsuit against Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook acted unconstitutionally when it removed Trump from the platform.

The lawsuits against Twitter and YouTube make similar claims. All three are asking the court to award unspecified damages, declare Section 230 unconstitutional and restore Trump’s accounts, along with those of the other plaintiffs, a handful of others who have had all posts or accounts removed.

But Trump’s lawsuits are likely doomed to fail, said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California who has studied more than 60 similar failed lawsuits in recent decades that sought to take on internet companies for firing. or suspend users. accounts.

“They’ve argued for everything under the sun, including the First Amendment, and they’re getting nowhere,” Goldman said. “Perhaps he has a trick up his sleeve that will give him an advantage in the dozens of lawsuits before him. I doubt it.”

Goldman said Trump is likely following the lawsuits to get attention. As president, Trump last year signed an executive order challenging Section 230.

“It was always about sending a message to their base that they are fighting on their behalf against the evil tech giants of Silicon Valley,” Goldman said.

Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a technology industry trade group that includes Facebook, Twitter and Google, said Internet companies have the right to enforce their terms of service.

“Frivolous class action litigation will not change the fact that users, including presidents of the United States, have to abide by the rules they agreed to,” he said in a statement.

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