MIAMI — Former President Donald Trump filed suit today in federal court, accusing Facebook and Twitter of "impermissable censorship" and violations of the First Amendment.
The suits, filed in the Southern District of Florida, name Facebook and Twitter. Yesterday, Trump announced the action, saying he also planned to sue Google, but no suit had been filed as of today, court records show.
Because the First Amendment only applies to the government's actions, the suits seek to cast the private companies as "state actors."
The suits call each social media platform "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."
Both suits seek to be classified as Class Action. One cannot file a Class Action suit. One can only file suit, allege that there is a class of people affected, and request the court to recognize that class and allow the suit to proceed as a Class Action.
In the suits, Trump complains that he was "deplatformed" while he was "sitting President of the United States" and that anyone attempting to give him a "voice" also was targeted for the "callous disregard" of First Amendment rights.
The suits claim that "the result is a chilling effect cast over our nation’s pressing political, medical, social, and cultural discussions."
The suits state that Trump used social media before his election, during his campaign and following his election. He "strategically
circumvented what he saw as a mainstream media that was biased against him."
Now that he has lost those platforms, it has made it harder for him to run the Republican Party, help campaign for other Republicans, and fundraise for his 2024 campaign, the suits say. Even worse, Trump's removal from social media "has ended balanced, direct public discussions between competing political views on national and local issues."
In their blog post explaining their ban of Trump's account, Twitter stated they did so because he allegedly was using their platform to incite violence. You can read it here. Facebook's blog post about suspension of Trump's account indicates that action also was related to his posts before, during and after the January 6, 2020 attack on the U.S. Capitol. You can read it here.
In the past, the courts have held that even the First Amendment does not prevent the government from restricting speech intended to incite or produce violence and lawless action. As Justice Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously wrote, one can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater when there's no fire.
Trump's suits allege that the basis of the bans, however, are a conspiracy among members of Congress and the platforms.
"Defendants deplatformed Plaintiff at the behest of, with cooperation from, and the approval of, Democrat lawmakers," the suits allege.
"Democrat legislators in Congress feared Plaintiff’s skilled use of social media as a threat to their own re-election efforts. These legislators exerted overt coercion, using both words and actions, upon Defendants to have Defendants censor the views and content with which Members of Congress disagreed with, of both the Plaintiff and the Putative Class Members," the suits state.
Those members of Congress made statements, held hearings and threatened the CEOs of social media giants to force them to "deplatform" Trump, the suits allege.
The suits allege that Twitter and Facebook employees "often coordinate their censorship efforts."
The suits make frequent use of the term "prior restraint." This is a legal term developed in First Amendment law, defined as "government action that prohibits speech or other expression before the speech happens," according to Cornell Law.
The suits claim that both platforms are attempting to exercise prior restraint against Trump, his family and his followers. The suits allege that there are more than 1 million members in the class, and that the damages exceed $5 million.
At an event Wednesday, Trump talked about the lawsuits, the AP reports.
Here's the AP's report on that:
“Today, in conjunction with the America First Policy Institute, I’m filing as the lead class representative a major class action lawsuit against the big tech giants including Facebook, Google, and Twitter as well as their CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey,” said Trump.
Trump added that the suits call for a Florida district court to issue an order blocking the companies’ alleged censorship.
The Washington Post reports that the suits also call for the court to strike down Section 230, an internet law that protects tech companies from lawsuits about content moderation decisions.
The suits also reportedly seek punitive damages.