The bizarre lawsuit suggests that social media companies are not, in fact, private corporations but rather governmental entities.
Former President Donald Trump has announced a series of class action lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter, and Google, claiming the technology companies de-platformed users for purely political reasons.
Speaking at a press conference outside his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, Trump said he was initiating a “major class action lawsuit” intended to “stop the blacklisting, banishing, and canceling that you know so well.”
Collectively, Trump wants a court “to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ illegal, shameful censorship of the American people.”
Trump, notes ABC News, was banned from Facebook and Twitter following the January 6th riots at the U.S. Capitol. The former president was also kicked off Google-owned YouTube.
Trump’s lawsuit makes a novel suggestion: that the defendant companies’ activities are so intertwined with those of the federal government that they have, in effect, become governmental entities in their own right.
“Defendant Facebook has increasingly engaged in impermissible censorship resulting from threatened legislative action, a misguided reliance upon Section 230 of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230, and willful participation in joint activity with federal actors,” the lawsuit against Facebook alleges. “Defendant Facebook’s status this rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor.”
“As such,” the complaint adds, “Defendant is constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions it makes regarding its Users.”
However, some legal experts have said that Trump’s challenge is likely to face an uphill battle.
Sarah Isgur, an ABC News analyst and former Justice Department spokesperson, told the network it is unlikely any judge in the United States will consider classifying a company like Facebook or Twitter as a governmental entity.
“This lawsuit argues that these social media platforms are bound by the First Amendment because they are the equivalent of government actors,” Isgur said. “It’s hard to imagine any judge in the country agreeing with them on this point.”
“Given that Donald Trump is no stranger to litigation,” she added, “he would also know that if the lawsuit isn’t dismissed on those grounds, he would be deposed, including about events around January 6th.”
Jessica Melugin of the Competitive Enterprise Institute similarly told National Public Radio that President Trump’s lawsuit should probably be considered a political ploy rather than a serious attempt at litigation.
While the social media companies said that Trump intentionally fanned the flames of insurrection, the one-term president maintained he did nothing wrong.