Donald Trump is busying himself with a new crusade that is likely to fail, and it's a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
Calling his own lawsuit a "very beautiful development," Trump announced the court filing Wednesday morning from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The case, filed in a Miami court, purports to be on behalf of all conservatives who have been banned from one of the platforms for violations of rules on things like hate speech and the glorification of violence.
Trump was joined at the press conference by former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who may be leading the case, and representatives from the conservative America First Institute.
"We’re demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and canceling that you know so well," Trump said, per the Associated Press.
Shadow-banning not being a thing, the suit will ostensibly run up against Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, and also up against laws that shield private companies from having to abide by the First Amendment. Section 230 both shields tech platforms from liability for content posted by their users, and allows them to moderate content to remove obscene or otherwise offensive content as long as they are acting "in good faith," as the AP explains.
"Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, unconstitutional and completely un-American," Trump said, per the New York Times.
The Times notes that the lawsuit appears to be a fundraising gambit for Trump and conservatives in general. Before Trump had even finished giving his press conference, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had texted supporters asking for donations pegged to Trump's suit.
Trump's own political action committee texted supporters once the conference was over, imitating Trump's own tweet style with random capitalization. "Pres Trump: I am SUING Facebook & Twitter for UNCONSTITUTIONAL CENSORSHIP," reads the text. "For a short time, 5x IMPACT on all gifts! Donate NOW!"
Conservative politicians and pundits have for years decried the liberal biases of social media and referred to the moderation of their content as censorship. Members of Congress have threatened to reform or revoke Section 230, which tech companies have long said would a deeply chilling effect on their industry, and the economy.
And court challenges to Section 230 have been nearly universally unsuccessful. As law professor Eric Goldman at Santa Clara University in California tells the AP regarding dozens of failed lawsuits over account suspensions, "They’ve argued everything under the sun, including First Amendment, and they get nowhere. Maybe [Trump]’s got a trick up his sleeve that will give him a leg up on the dozens of lawsuits before him. I doubt it.”
Goldman instead believes, as the Times seems to, that this is just a plea for attention (and political donations). Conservatives in general are "sending a message to their base that they’re fighting on their behalf against the evil Silicon Valley tech giants," Goldman says.
Trump was permanently banned from Twitter the day after the January 6 riot at the Capitol, and he was subsequently banned from Facebook and YouTube as well. Facebook's new Advisory Board took up the case of Trump's permanent ban this spring, and returned a verdict in May that Facebook needed to revise its own policy on punitive suspensions — but it said that Trump's suspension was justified.
Facebook announced in June that Trump's ban was not permanent, but was a two-year suspension that will end in January 2023 so long as he is no longer a "risk to public safety." And the company left open the possibility of suspending him again if his content violates the platform's rules.
Top image: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference announcing a class action lawsuit against big tech companies at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on July 07, 2021 in Bedminster, New Jersey. Former President Trump held a press conference with executives from the America First Policy Institute to announce a class action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, Google, and their CEOs, claiming that he was wrongfully censored. Since being banned from the social media companies, former President Trump has continued to spread lies about mass voter fraud in the 2020 election that have not not been substantiated. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)