Following the January 6 insurrection where a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, Twitter banned the then-president from its platform for inciting violence. Later that summer, Trump filed the lawsuit against Twitter and its then-CEO Jack Dorsey to regain his account, a hallmark of his presidency.
Trump’s Twitter account was permanently banned from Twitter in January with 88 million followers.
A federal judge in California dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Twitter Friday, dimming at least one avenue the former president and prolific tweeter might have used to get back to his platform of choice.
Trump’s argument that the social media company and its then-chief executive Jack Dorsey violated his right to free speech failed to convince Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California, to put it lightly.
“Plaintiffs’ main claim is that defendants have “censor[ed]” plaintiffs’ Twitter accounts in violation of their right to free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Donato wrote. “Plaintiffs are not starting from a position of strength.”
In tossing the suit as it stands, Donato pointed out the obvious: Twitter is a private company and is not bound by the First Amendment, which protects Americans from government efforts to limit speech. Essentially, Twitter can do whatever it wants when it comes to content moderation, just like any other online platform.
Donato shot down the connection Trump’s legal team tried to make between the U.S. government and Twitter, rejecting the assertion that the company was somehow acting on behalf of the federal government because Democratic lawmakers wanted Trump kicked off the platform.
“The amended complaint merely offers a grab-bag of allegations to the effect that some Democratic members of Congress wanted Mr. Trump, and ‘the views he espoused,’ to be banned from Twitter,” Donato wrote.
In spite of the lawsuit, Trump has claimed that he wouldn’t return to Twitter even if given the chance. And with the company under the erratic leadership of misguided free speech absolutist Elon Musk, he indeed might be given that opportunity. In the mean time, Trump continues to promote his own app, Truth Social, which currently sits in the eleventh place on the App Store’s social networking chart.
Trump and the other plaintiffs on the suit — organizations and individuals who were similarly booted from Twitter — will have a shot at revising their argument, but Donato points out that the bar is high because keeping private industry and the public sphere separate is “a matter of great importance.”
“Plaintiffs’ only hope of stating a First Amendment claim is to plausibly allege that Twitter was in effect operating as the government,” Donato wrote. “This is not an easy claim to make, for good reasons.”
Trump’s case against Twitter has been dropped by a court in California, who found that the ex-2021 president’s ban from the network looks to be perfectly lawful. Trump and a handful of other banned users have until May 27th to present an updated complaint, according to the decision issued today.
There is a possibility of an appeal, but the court’s decision strongly criticises any revised allegations, making it more difficult for the plaintiffs to succeed. President Trump had argued that Twitter had violated the First Amendment and that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was illegal. In specifically, the ruling rejected these concerns.
In the opening sentence of his analysis, Judge James Donato states, “Plaintiffs are not beginning from a position of strength. Trump and his fellow exiles on Twitter face an uncertain future.
Twitter, YouTube, and Meta had their lawsuits relocated to Trump’s home state of California after they were first filed in Florida (then Facebook). When he failed to get his Twitter account back, Trump filed a revised lawsuit in an effort to improve his case.
“These provisions are neither evasive or deceptive in any way.”
Judge Donato, on the other hand, found that Twitter was not acting in the capacity of a state actor when it banned Trump, despite Trump’s assertion that the social media company had been requested to remove him by legislators.
A “grab bag” of claims, including numerous Democratic elected officials who called for a ban, was dismissed by the court as “absolutely free” to express ideas without being declared the official voice of “the State. As contrast to threats of punitive state action, even the most vociferous congressional opinion “fits within the customary bounds of a congressional probe.”
There was no Section 230 link shown by Trump and his co-plaintiffs, thus their claim was dismissed. They were also unable to persuade the judge to apply a Florida-based deceptive trade practises provision in California court, and the judgement says that Twitter probably did not violate it, either.. ‘At any moment, for any or no reason,’ the [terms of service] explicitly specifies that Twitter may suspend or delete an account,’” Judge Donato points out. In addition, Twitter has the option of removing or denying distribution of any material. Those clauses don’t seem to be cagey or deceptive at all.”
The Stop Social Media Censorship Act of Florida, which is now mired in court, did not help Trump’s cause.
Donald Trump cannot make new allegations in an updated submission, and unless the judge’s rationale drastically changes, the ultimate verdict will be quite similar to this one. After Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, it’s possible that Trump’s account might be restored willingly. People who sue social networks for banning them have had a lengthy history of court defeats.
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