Former U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled a trio of class action lawsuits against Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and their CEOs over their censorship of online speech on June 7.
At a press conference from the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump spoke for slightly more than 20 minutes where he made the joint announcement with the America First Policy Institute.
“From the very beginning of our nation, freedom of speech has always been understood as a bedrock of our liberty and our strength,” said Trump. “In America, we recognize that the freedom to speak our minds and express the truth… is our heart. It is not granted to us by government, it is given to us by God and no one should have the power to take that right away.”
Trump said the founding fathers inscribed the freedom of speech as a fundamental right into the Constitution because of an awareness that it is “essential to the prevention of horror and to the preservation of our republic.”
“But, remember the words ‘the prevention of horror’,” emphasized Trump. “Because we’re very close to seeing that now in our country. We’ve never been in a position like this, and it’s all happened very quickly.”
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Trump is himself the personification of Big Tech censorship after becoming the target of a nearly ubiquitous systemic de-platforming from every mainstream social media app. The process had begun with minor forms of squelching, such as post deletion or the addition of warning labels to tweets — when he began questioning the integrity of the November 2020 presidential election — and concluded with a total and permanent ban from the three largest Big Tech outlets after the Jan. 6 Capitol Building break-in.
Taking on Big Tech
“If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone. And in fact, that is exactly what they’re doing…what they’re doing is incredible, and incredibly dangerous.”
Trump filed three separate class action suits in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida against Twitter and CEO Jack Dorsey, YouTube and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg with other individuals who suffered deplatforming and censorship joining him as Plaintiffs.
The suits seek unspecified monetary damages, reinstatement of accounts and posting privileges, and removal of throttling methods such as shadowbanning and warning labels. In addition, the courts are being asked to declare Section 230 protections unconstitutional.
In his speech, Trump said Big Tech companies were “working with government, the mainstream media, and a large segment of a political party to silence and suppress the views of the American people.” He said the companies no longer count as private corporations after being granted the shield of Section 230, calling the legislation “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.”
The suit filed against Twitter specifically targets both the “Good Samaritan” provision of Section 230, which grants immunity from liability for “Any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be…otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected,” and additional verbiage protecting Section 230 from being overrode at the state level.
In court filings, the Plaintiffs allege “Democrat legislators,” including Vice President-to-be Kamala Harris, passively or actively threatened the trio and their CEOs with both a removal of Section 230 protections and potential antitrust enforcement if they “did not censor views and content with which these Members of Congress disagreed” in the run up to the Jan. 20 transfer of power.
Trump also took issue with social media companies’ dissonant positions on the SARS-CoV-2’s origin at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which at the time had been designated a conspiracy theory by mainstream news outlets and scientists; the lab outbreak theory is now widely acknowledged by establishment sources.
The 45th president lambasted Google and YouTube for banning content critical of the World Health Organization, describing the WHO as “a pipe organ for China,” even if the posts were by medical professionals and based on “clear, scientific fact.”
Standing with him at the conference were co-plaintiffs to the suits, people Trump described as having been silenced by Big Tech “under the corrupt regime of censorship.”
One guest introduced was a party to the Facebook class action, Jen Horton, a Michegan school teacher who was banned from the platform after questioning whether young children should be made to wear masks. After being deplatformed, Horton’s brother went missing and she was unable to put out a call for help to friends and family who may have known his location.
In YouTube’s case, Trump referenced Dr. Kelly Victory, described as a board certified trauma and emergency specialist from Colorado. Victory was asked by a pastor to make a video about how to mitigate pandemic risks so church services could resume safely. The video was removed from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Trump said he doesn’t intend to stop with just a class action lawsuit, intending to go the extra mile and take his pro-First Amendment initiative to state legislatures, Congress, and into the upcoming election cycles.
Experts interviewed by the Washington Post said the class actions were unlikely to meet with fruition. Deputy Director for New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights said Big Tech has First Amendment protections of their own allowing them “To determine what speech their platforms project and amplify.” Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick meanwhile dismissed Trump’s assertion that Section 230 had transformed social media giants into private arms of the public administration, “The fact that they benefit from a federal law does not transform someone into the federal government.”
“All of us benefit from laws at some point or another and that doesn’t transform us into the federal government,” said Fitzpatrick.
According to Forbes, only moments after the press conference began, the NRSC and NRCC, fundraising arms for the GOP’s Senate and House branches respectively, in addition to Trump’s personal fundraising committee, sent out text messages to their contact lists soliciting donation requests.