- Former President Donald Trump announced he is suing Facebook, Twitter and Google, as well as their respective CEOs Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai.
- Shortly after the press conference wrapped, Trump’s political entities started sending out fundraising messages that touted the lawsuits in their appeals for money.
- Twitter, Trump’s preferred social media outlet throughout his one term in office, permanently banned him on the heels of the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters.
Some experts say the legal effort is all but guaranteed to fail.
Trump, who has a history of threatening legal action but not always following through, made the announcement at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, alongside two leaders from America First Policy Institute, the pro-Trump nonprofit group that is supporting the lawsuits.
Shortly after the press conference wrapped, Trump’s political entities started sending out fundraising messages that touted the lawsuits in their appeals for money. One such text message, written in Trump’s voice, includes a link to his joint fundraising committee Save America, which also raises money for other Republican political initiatives.
The lawsuits were unveiled just over a month after Facebook decided to uphold Trump’s ban from using the platform until at least January 2023. Twitter, Trump’s preferred social media outlet throughout his one term in office, permanently banned him on the heels of the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters.
The lawsuit against Pichai also names as a defendant Youtube, the video-sharing website bought by Google in 2006. Youtube indefinitely banned Trump in January.
“We’re not looking to settle,” Trump told reporters at Bedminster when asked about the lawsuits. “We don’t know what’s going to happen but we’re not looking to settle,” he said.
The three related lawsuits, filed in federal court in Florida, allege the tech giants have violated plaintiffs’ First Amendments rights.
The suits want the court to order the media companies to let Trump back on their platforms. They also want the court to declare that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a piece of legislation that stops tech companies from being held liable for what users post on their platforms, is unconstitutional.
As president, Trump railed against Section 230 and repeatedly called for its repeal. He even tied the issue to a crucial round of stimulus checks at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the passage of an annual defense spending bill.
“I think the lawsuit has almost no chance of success,” Vanderbilt University Law professor Brian Fitzpatrick told CNBC in a phone interview.
The tech platforms are private entities, not government institutions, and therefore the plaintiffs’ claims about constitutional violations do not hold up, Fitzpatrick said.
The professor added that he was unconvinced by the argument in the lawsuits that the companies should be treated like government, because their conduct, including alleged coordination with then-President elect Joe Biden’s transition team, “amount[s] to state action.”
“I think this is just a public relations lawsuit,” Fitzpatrick said, “and I’ll be honest with you, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends with sanctions against the lawyers for filing a frivolous lawsuit.”