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Trump Sues Big Tech, What's It Really About?

Trump filed class action lawsuits against Twitter, Google, and Facebook on first amendment freedom of speech grounds. What's going on?
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Trump Announces His Lawsuits

Trump Sues Facebook, Twitter, Google to Restore Social-Media Accounts

On Wednesday, the WSJ reported Trump Sues Facebook, Twitter, Google to Restore Social-Media Accounts

On Thursday, the WSJ posted this Op-Ed by Trump explaining Why I’m Suing Big Tech.

One of the gravest threats to our democracy today is a powerful group of Big Tech corporations that have teamed up with government to censor the free speech of the American people. This is not only wrong—it is unconstitutional. To restore free speech for myself and for every American, I am suing Big Tech to stop it.

Perhaps most egregious, in the weeks after the election, Big Tech blocked the social-media accounts of the sitting president. If they can do it to me, they can do it to you—and believe me, they are.

This flagrant attack on free speech is doing terrible damage to our country. That is why in conjunction with the America First Policy Institute, I filed class-action lawsuits to force Big Tech to stop censoring the American people. The suits seek damages to deter such behavior in the future and injunctions restoring my accounts.

Big Tech has been illegally deputized as the censorship arm of the U.S. government. This should alarm you no matter your political persuasion. It is unacceptable, unlawful and un-American.

Politics of the Matter

  1. If you are a Trump supporter most likely you strongly agree with him. 
  2. If you dislike Trump most likely you strongly disagree. 
  3. Those made of sterner stuff want to set politics aside and instead focus on what is constitutionally correct. 

Trump's Claim

Mr. Trump claims he was banned for "exercising his constitutional right of free speech."

That is false. He was banned for repeatedly violating social media policy. He was explicitly told not to claim election fraud or make claims after the election that he won. 

You can agree or disagree with Trump's claims, but he was warned yet continued anyway. Facebook banned him for two years. 

What's Legally Correct?

We need to pay strict attention to point number 3 above, setting aside whether or not we agree with social media policy or the ban.

Instead, we need to settle the matter in context of First Amendment Rights (because that is precisely how it will be settled). 

Constitutional Expert Floyd Abrams

First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, a constitutional expert and author of “Soul of the First Amendment” called Mr. Trump’s suits against the three platforms “irredeemably frivolous” and that Section 230 of the Communications Act provides social-media outlets with more protection than the First Amendment requires. 

Abrams viewpoint should be strongly considered. He has argued 13 First Amendment suits before the Supreme Court. 

The First Amendment Itself

 Let's now investigate the First Amendment 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The amendment protects individuals from government censorship. It says nothing about the rights of governments or politicians to say whatever they want on private businesses or private forums. 

Trump Blocked People

The irony of Trump's lawsuit is that he blocked people who criticized him from reading his Tweets. 

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On July of 2019, an Appeals Court ruled Trump Can't Block Twitter Followers

It was a unanimous decision. All three judges agreed to uphold the lower court ruling. The case started two years ago. A few people joined a lawsuit against the president. They included a doctor, a university professor, a comedian and a police officer. Trump had blocked each of them from his Twitter account after they criticized him.

The judges were careful to spell out the limits of this ruling. They said it's about public officials working in their official capacity. The judges are not deciding whether the social media companies are bound by the First Amendment. They were clear about that constraint.

A look at the First Amendment suggests the ruling was a good one. 

Irredeemably Frivolous

Whether you agree or disagree politically with Trump or social media,  the correct analysis is that Trump's claims are indeed constitutionally frivolous. 

I placed emphasis on constitutionally for a reason. 

What's It Really About?

  • Trump's lawsuit has nothing to do with the Constitution. Rather, it has everything to do with the Court of Public Opinion
  • Blocked from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, Trump is no longer in the limelight. He desperately wants back in.
  • Without access to social media, especially with mainstream media ignoring him almost totally, Trump's fundraising ability is crippled

Constitutionally, his lawsuit is frivolous, But in the Court of Public Opinion his lawsuit is anything but frivolous. 

Q: What then does that make the lawsuit?
A: In two blunt but accurate words, a publicity stunt. 

What About Fairness?

We can debate moral issues and fairness. But on that score I doubt I can  change a single mind.

Regardless, here goes. It's clear that at best, Social Media applied rules haphazardly. Hopefully no one except the media companies will disagree with that. 

But like it or not, Trump has no basis for a "constitutional" lawsuit. He  conflates "his views of fairness" with actual first amendment rights. 

Trump knows better. If so, that exposes the lawsuit for what it really is: A publicity stunt aimed at the Court of Public Opinion.  And if he doesn't know better, he should. 

Whether or not the public understands the First Amendment, presidents should.

As a matter of policy, Trump does not get to reword the Constitution to his liking. Nor does Biden, nor Congress (except by ratified Constitutional Amendment)

That is not just a good thing, it's an exceptional thing. 

We need to praise the Constitution, not trash it for political purposes. And that applies to Republicans and Democrats alike.


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