Former President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has filed class action lawsuits against the leaders of Facebook, Twitter and Google after he was booted off their platforms in January.
“The American people’s birthright of freedom must prevail against Big Tech and other forces that seek to destroy it,” Trump said at his private club in Bedminster, N.J. “Through this lawsuit we are standing up for American democracy, by standing up for free speech rights of every American.”
Trump said he plans to sue Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officers of Twitter and Facebook, respectively, as well Sundar Pichai, who heads Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube. The cases were filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida.
“We are demanding an end to the shadow banning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing, and canceling that you know so well,” Trump said. “Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, it's unconstitutional, and it's completely un-American.”
Trump's political operation issued fundraising appeals almost immediately after the announcement, a sign that his team believe the effort will animate and excite members of his base.
Trump was permanently banned from Twitter and suspended indefinitely from Facebook and Instagram in response to posts he made surrounding the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol led by supporters of his. A long line of court rulings has held that such suspensions do not violate any First Amendment right, despite Trump's claim to the contrary.
“There is no better evidence that big tech is out of control than the fact that they banned the sitting president of the United States earlier this year. A ban that continues to this day,” he said. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone. And in fact, that is exactly what they are doing.”
The suits allege that the former president's First Amendment rights were infringed by the companies' actions and that they have exceeded their protections granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
The lawsuit is being supported by the America First Policy Institute, a newly established nonprofit stocked with ideological allies and former Trump administration officials to advance the former president’s agenda after he left office. The litigious former president has a decades-long history of both suing, and threatening to sue, dating back to his career as a New York City real estate developer.
Trump was accompanied by Brooke Rollins, AFPI’s president and CEO, and board chair Linda McMahon. McMahon led the Small Business Administration under Trump and Rollins served as a top White House domestic policy adviser during his administration.
Trump has bitterly complained about losing his social media megaphone in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, arguing that his explusion from those platforms is evidence of bias against conservative speech by the tech giants. In June, Facebook announced that the earliest Trump would be allowed to regain access to his accounts would be 2023.
Despite the popularity of right-wing figures on major social media platforms, Republicans have become increasingly animated around the idea of “big tech censorship” and sought ways to rein in these companies. Florida lawmakers pushed through a law that would bar platforms from banning political candidates or risk hefty fines, but a federal judge last week issued a preliminary injunction blocking its implementation.
Several copycat social media platforms have sprouted up that market themselves as friendlier turf for the MAGA faithful, including one recently backed by Trump adviser Jason Miller that has ties to Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire who is close to right-wing firebrand Steve Bannon.
Trump has pursued several alternative avenues to get his message out as he remains a central force in GOP politics, including an abortive foray into blogging that lasted roughly a month. But he has not signed onto the Miller-backed Twitter competitor, called GETTR.
In response to a reporter's question, Trump said he was unsure he would rejoin the social media platforms even if he was allowed back on in response to the lawsuits.
Representatives for each of the three companies each declined to comment on Trump's announcement.
Axios first reported Wednesday morning on Trump’s lawsuits.
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