Trump files suit against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former President Donald Trump has filed suit against three of the country’s biggest tech companies, claiming he and other conservatives have been wrongfully censored.

Trump announced the action against Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube, along with the companies’ Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai, at a press conference Wednesday in New Jersey, where he demanded that his accounts be reinstated.

Trump has been suspended from the platforms since January, when some of his followers protested at the Capitol building. The companies cited concerns that Trump would incite further violence and have kept him locked out. All three declined comment Wednesday.

“We’re asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ illegal, shameful censorship of the American people,” Trump said of the filings. “We’re going to hold big tech very accountable.”

Twitter, Facebook and Google are all private companies, and users must agree to their terms of service to use their products. Under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, social media platforms are allowed to moderate their services by removing posts that, for instance, are obscene or violate the services’ own standards, so long as they are acting in “good faith.” The law also generally exempts internet companies from liability for the material that users post.

But Trump and other politicians have long argued that Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms have abused that protection and should lose their immunity — or at least have it curtailed.

The suit against Facebook and CEO Zuckerberg says Facebook acted unconstitutionally when it removed Trump from the platform. Suits against Twitter and YouTube make similar claims. All three ask the court to award unspecified damages, declare Section 230 unconstitutional and restore Trump’s accounts, along with those of several other plaintiffs who joined the suits and have also had posts or accounts removed.

Trump’s move comes a week after a federal judge blocked a new Florida law signed by a Trump ally, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, that sought to punish large social media companies like Facebook and Twitter for removing content or banning politicians. The law would have allowed the state to fine the companies $250,000 a day for removing the accounts of statewide political candidates and $25,000 a day for removing the accounts of those running for local office. But U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on June 30 granted a preliminary injunction stopping the new law from being enforced.

The judge said that tech industry groups challenging the law were likely to prevail on their claim that it violated the First Amendment if the case went to trial.