Former President Donald Trump sued three tech giants — Facebook, Twitter, and Google — and the firms’ chief executives after the platforms took various steps to ban him or block him from posting.
Speaking from his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, Trump announced that he would serve as the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, arguing that he has been censored wrongfully by the tech companies. Speaking about “freedom of speech” and the First Amendment — which applies to the government, not to private-sector companies — Trump called his lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a “stunning development.”
His political operation immediately began fundraising off it.
At the event and in court documents, Trump’s legal team argued that the tech firms amounted to state actors, and thus the First Amendment applied to them.
Legal experts said similar arguments had repeatedly failed in the courts before.
Social media companies are allowed, under current law, to moderate their platforms. They are protected by a provision known as Section 230 that exempts internet firms from liability for what is posted on their networks and allows them to remove postings that violate their standards.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare Section 230, which Trump has railed against, “unconstitutional” and to restore the former president’s access to the sites, as well as that of other members of the lawsuit who have been blocked. The suit also asks to prevent the tech firms from “censorship” Trump in the future.
“Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, unconstitutional, and completely un-American,” Trump said. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone.”
Twitter declined to comment. Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
To some extent, the lawsuit appeared to be as much a publicity play as an actual legal gambit. Trump said he would pursue his anti-tech company agenda in Congress, state legislatures, and “ultimately, the ballot box.”
Before Trump was done speaking, both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had sent text messages and asked for contributions.