Twitter beats Trump, for now

Last July, President Trump filed separate lawsuits in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida against Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  On May 6, the lawsuit against Twitter was dismissed for failure to state a claim.

After the lawsuit was filed against Twitter, its attorneys were successful in getting the lawsuit transferred to the Northern District of California.  The Twitter user agreement specifically stated that in the event of litigation against the company, the action had to be filed in the Northern District of California, Twitter's home turf.

Once transferred to California, the case was assigned to an Obama appointee, Judge James Donato.  Judge Donato ruled that the complaint failed on each of the causes of action:

1. The president's complaint alleged that his First Amendment free speech rights had been violated by his permanent ban from Twitter on 1/8/21.  However, the judge noted that such rights usually apply only to government abridgement of speech and not that done by private companies.  For this claim to succeed, the president would have show "the state action doctrine."  That is, he would have to establish that Twitter was so controlled by government that Twitter had become the government's agent and subject to the same free speech abridgement rules as the government.

2. President Trump asserted that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is unconstitutional and asked for an order declaring as much.  The court gave short shrift to this allegation, stating that the president did not have "standing" to challenge it.  It also stated that President Trump had not shown an invasion of a legally protected interest.

3. The court also dismissed the president's claim of damages suffered under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.  The court noted that the Twitter user agreement stated that California law would apply, not Florida law.  The court also noted that the Twitter user agreement specifically stated that an account may be suspended or terminated "at any time for any or no reason."

This is just round 1.  Expect President Trump to appeal to the über-liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and for that court to sustain the dismissal.  President Trump would then apply for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.  However, only about 70 of 7,000 writs for cert make it to the Court's docket each year.  Also, complicating matters is Elon Musk's potential takeover of Twitter and President Trump's account being re-instated.  The bottom line is that the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of section 230.

Readers may also wish to keep tabs on Alex Berenson's lawsuit against Twitter.  His attorneys wisely filed the original lawsuit in California and have alleged violations of the California constitution and several state statutes.  That lawsuit recently survived a motion to dismiss brought by Twitter.

Image: Esther Vargas via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped).

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