Trump v. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, et al
On July 7, 2021, President Trump’s legal team filed three major lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The suits named as defendants: Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg (21-cv-22440), Twitter and Jack Dorsey (21-cv-22441), and YouTube and Sundar Pichai (21-cv-22445 as defendants. Judge Kathleen Mary Williams, an Obama nominee, has been assigned to the Facebook case. Judge Robert Nichols Scola, Jr, an Obama nominee, has been assigned the Twitter case and Judge K. Michael Moore, a George H.W. Bush nominee, has been assigned the YouTube case.
There is no substitute for reading the actual complaints but here are some of the highlights.
Each of the complaints asserts that Democrat legislators coerced the defendants to censor Trump and other class members. Here are some cited examples:
“Look, let’s be honest, @realDonaldTrump’s Twitter account should be suspended.” (Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, September 30, 2019);
“But I do think that for the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it. And it is not out of the question that that could be removed.” (Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, April 12, 2019);
“The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Dorsey and other platforms.” (Joe Biden/Interview in December of 2019 and published January 2020);
“We can and should have a conversation about Section 230. -- and the ways in which it has enabled platforms to turn a blind eye as their platforms are used to... enable domestic terrorist groups to organize violence in plain sight.” (Statement of US Sen. Mark Warner on Section 230 Hearing on October 28, 2020.);
“It’s long past time to hold the social media companies accountable for what’s published on their platforms.” (Bruce Reed, Biden’s Top Tech Advisor/December 2, 2020); · @jack (Jack Dorsey) Time to do something about this Tweet. (Sen. Kamala Harris’ Tweet, October 2, 2019)
Each of the complaints asserts that congressional legislation (47 USC section 230) encouraged the defendants to censor Trump and other class members. The complaints give a history of the statute and assert that it does not give blanket authority to censor what would otherwise be constitutionally protected speech. A Harvard Law Review article is referenced:
As discussed in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Leary, Mary Graw, “The Indecency and Injustice of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act,” Vol. 41, No. 2, pg. 564, 565 (2018) Congress expressly stated that th[is] is the policy of the United States ‘to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.’ That said, Congress appeared to recognize that unlimited tort-based lawsuits would threaten the then-fragile Internet and the ‘freedom of speech in the new and burgeoning Internet medium.’ Although these two goals required some balancing, it was clear from the text and legislative history of § 230 that it was never intended to provide a form of absolute immunity for any and all actions taken by interactive computer services. Section 230 is not ‘a general prohibition of civil liability for web-site operators and other content hosts.’ Rather, Congress sought to provide limited protections for limited actions.
Each of the complaints asserts that the defendants willfully participated in joint activity with federal actors to censor Trump and other class members. Specific examples are given of how the defendants refused to publish facts or opinions that contradicted Dr. Anthony Fauci of the CDC including discussions of HCQ and the possible origins of COVID-19 in a lab in Wuhan, China.
Finally, each of the complaints seeks a declaratory judgment that section 230 of the communications decency act is unconstitutional. The complaints assert that Congress is constitutionally prohibited from passing legislation that limits protected speech and cannot pass a statute giving someone else that authority.
Pay attention to these cases. Trump has requested jury trials, class certification, and punitive damages in each of the cases. If any of these cases make it to trial in front of a Florida jury, the defendants could be looking at multibillion-dollar judgments along with punitive damages. These cases really are an existential threat to the tech companies if they go to trial.
The defendants have unlimited funds. Expect them to hire the best and brightest legal advice. I’m sure that David Boies has been contacted.
President Trump does not have the financial resources of the defendants but does have millions of supporters who believe that the 2020 election was stolen, in part, as a result of tech company collusion. Any legal fund that he starts to fight these tech giants would most likely receive millions in contributions.
Stay tuned. One or more of these cases is probably destined to make it to the Supreme Court. Even the cowardly John Roberts won’t be able to duck this one.
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