Former President Donald Trump recently filed an unusual lawsuit against social media giants that has little to do with a monetary settlement and everything to do with protecting free speech.
“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,” Mr. Trump reportedly said. “We’re going to hold big tech very accountable.”
The Republican firebrand targets Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube, in conjunction with other companies owned by so-called “Masters of the Universe” Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai. These notoriously liberal-Democrat entities routinely censored the former president during his tenure in the White House. After citing voting irregularities during the 2020 elections, the left-leaning CEOs suspended his profiles. The efforts to stifle conservative voices and enhance liberal ones prompted Congress to hold hearings and question Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Pichai. Texas Senator Ted Cruz pointed out that Facebook punished even light-hearted pro-Trump users, calling them a “danger to the community.”
But the essential question is not necessarily whether Mr. Trump and other conservatives have been treated unfairly. The lawsuit must overcome one of the toughest legal hurdles. These social media platforms have taken advantage of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that allows them to moderate information and remove posts its liberal employees find obscene or threatening. The Act eliminates any financial liability as long as they censor in “good faith.”
As Democrats, shutting down opposing political positions is precisely what they view as a good-faith effort. But years of gross overreach have created a clear methodology that demonstrates bias and not fair-minded monitoring. Despite the offensive history, left-leaning legal insiders have already added to the Democrat narrative that Mr. Trump’s lawsuit is not viable.
“They’ve argued everything under the sun, including First Amendment, and they get nowhere,” Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman said. “Maybe he’s got a trick up his sleeve that will give him a leg up on the dozens of lawsuits before him. I doubt it.”
In a move that many may not yet comprehend, Mr. Trump’s legal team may not necessarily be taking a blunt-force First Amendment violation approach. They appear to be attempting to chop away at the Communications Decency Act immunities. Mr. Trump will be playing a hand that rests on the social media moguls’ well-documented malfeasance and a U.S. Supreme Court that grows weary of companies subverting the First Amendment.
Justice Clearance Thomas recently penned a blistering opinion that asserts social media platforms should not enjoy the broad protections that allow them to practice selective censorship.
“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors. Also unprecedented, however, is control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties,” Justice Thomas wrote. “We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”
The long-standing conservative justice went on to single out Facebook and Google as potential bad actors.
Everyday Americans can anticipate the dishonest media will push phony narratives designed to undermine the lawsuit. They will likely run splashy headlines should Facebook, Google, and Twitter prevail in the lower courts. But Mr. Trump is playing to win at the U.S. Supreme Court, and it appears he already has one justice on his side.