Trump’s Class Action Lawsuits Explained
In early March, the RNHA covered the history of government censorship in America and the increasing controversy of censorship on social media platforms. These included Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, as well as many other companies that have limited the dissemination of Conservative views on a series of contentious topics within the country. Former President, Donald J. Trump’s class action lawsuits focus specifically on the latter, that “Section 230 on its face is an unconstitutional delegation of authority” and restraint on the “First Amendment right to free speech”, according to the Twitter case.
Much of the disagreement surrounding the issue of whether or not a social media platform should be capable of abating one’s ability to communicate, what they find either illuminating or persuasive on a social networking website, is essential to what makes these platforms “powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard”.
While pinpointing the exact moment this matter became controversial is difficult, many can say that the matter of censoring exploded to national headlines in May of 2020, after Twitter hid a tweet by President Trump they found violated their rules on violence, thus branding the tweet with a “fact-checking link”. Subsequently, questions arose whether or not President Trump’s account on Twitter would be completely disabled. Twitter responded in a statement, noting that to block a world leader “from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate”. This continued to decline when President Trump was permanently banned from Twitter on January 07th, 2021 following the events at the Capitol building. A few days prior, Twitter made the official announcement that “we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence”; Facebook followed suit.
In addition to President Trump, many other Conservatives throughout the country allege many of the same abuses by online platforms, notably Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. These users are going to such lengths as sending letters to “the Attorneys General of all 50 states calling for an investigation into whether Big Tech companies are in violation of the Consumer Protection Statute in their respective states”. This position was further emboldened when the American Conservative Union’s coverage of President Trump at CPAC 2021, via livestream on YouTube, was incapable of going forward given that YouTube decided to freeze their account as a result of covering the former president’s announcement of his class action lawsuits the Friday before. YouTube defended their position to do so because they identified “medical misinformation”, though they did not clarify the location of the misinformation within the coverage.
47 U.S.C § 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which originally aimed at curbing the influence and distribution of obscene content to minors, and provides protections to software providers identifying harmful content. As a result of Section 230, all online platforms are unliable for limits on constitutional rights when enacting strict measures to access content shared on their platforms, and unliable for practices that may violate Constitutional rights partaking.
Due to these provisions and to Section 230 providing private entities broad discretion, publications may possibly censure “individuals and groups who hold dissenting opinions”. Given this and the ongoing disputes between Conservatives and internet platforms, President Trump and his legal team have gone forward to file their three class action lawsuits in Miami at the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida, which seek to defend all Americans’ free speech against Twitter, Google, and Facebook. In their case against Twitter, it stated that they, and other social media companies are a “threat to Putative Class Members, our citizens, and our United States Constitution and form of government, is imminent, severe, and irreparable”. This warrants the district court to not only rule that Section 230 is unconstitutional, and burdensome to Americans, but also to reinstate censured, and deplatformed Putative Class Members as a result of the company’s editorial abilities.
In their complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, the arguments that are being put forward by the Trump legal team to argue against Twitter’s current use of Section 230, is that Twitter has become a medium by which state officials can target unfavorable groups, coerced by Democrat lawmakers to unfairly target specific people through shadow banning efforts, suppression of political thought and practice, and arbitrary flagging incidences. Thus becoming a threat to the political sphere. Currently, there’s no response by the court to these allegations in either of the three separate cases filed by the Trump team.
Whether or not these cases will be successful is not entirely known. Given this is the 45TH President of the United States and others leading the effort on this matter, while also raising many questions as to the extent by which social media companies have the right to regulate speech they have determined violate their terms and conditions. Some have raised doubt to the success, given that the Constitution protects the free speech of the public against the government, thus making these cases typically lack “merit”,but this case is unusual since it argues that government office holders are instructing social media platforms to take part in action favorable to themselves.