Trump Sues Facebook, Twitter and Google
BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Former President Donald Trump filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter and Google, and their CEOs on Wednesday, alleging the companies violated his 1st Amendment rights when they banned him and suspended his accounts.
“Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, it’s unconstitutional and it’s completely un-American,” Trump said Wednesday from his golf club in New Jersey.
The court filing, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeks injunctive relief — the immediate restoration of Trump’s social media accounts — and unspecified punitive damages.
“We are asking the [court] to order an immediate halt to the social media companies’ illegal and shameful censorship of the American People. We are demanding an END to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing, and canceling,” Trump said.
Trump was suspended from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube after his followers stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6. The companies cited concerns that he would incite further violence.
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.
Trump’s legal team includes John P. Coale, the husband of television commentator Greta Van Susteren and a principal negotiator in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, in which the five largest tobacco companies agreed to pay $10 billion annually for the indefinite future to 46 states.
Also on the team, serving as litigation counsel, is John Q. Kelly, whom Trump described in a press release as having “the reputation of a nice guy outside the courtroom and a killer inside.”
Kelly’s past cases include representing the estate of Nicole Brown Simpson in the wrongful death action that resulted in O.J. Simpson having to pay punitive damages to the estate; the extortion and wire fraud case case against Joran van der Sloot stemming from the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, and a case against Macy’s, when a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon — The Cat in the Hat, struck and broke a lamppost, which struck an onlooker in the head, causing a traumatic brain injury.
In a joint statement, Coale and Kelly said, “Facebook and Twitter, under the personal and unfettered direction of Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Dorsey, in January 2021 abused their increasingly enormous power by arbitrarily and indefinitely blocking then-President Trump’s ability to communicate to his approximately 115,000,000 followers on defendant’s platforms, and countless other private citizens thereby depriving him of his constitutionally protected First Amendment right of free speech.
“Facebook recently revisited its indefinite block that had remained in place after the president became a private citizen and imposed a definite block on citizen Trump’s access for two years, until January 2023. This block is also extended to family members and others who may be perceived, in Facebook’s judgment, as invoking his ‘voice.’
“The importance of this lawsuit cannot be understated,” they continued. “The unrestrained, unapologetic brute force that Facebook, Twitter, Mr. Zuckerberg, and Mr. Dorsey have used to destroy the free speech rights of all Americans, from the former occupant of the White House to the smallest users of their services, cannot be ignored.
“The attack on the First Amendment by these companies in the public forum invoking immunity under outdated Congressional legislation is a bipartisan issue that will have serious consequences for all Americans, now government actors pursuant to current case law in all states, both red and blue, unless someone takes a stand. Today with this lawsuit, President Trump and other brave Americans, Republican, and Democrat, are doing that,” they concluded.
The legal team did not distribute a copy of the actual complaint at the press conference.
Facebook, Google and Twitter all declined comment Wednesday.