Former President Donald Trump made clear on Thursday, July 8, that his class-action lawsuit is aimed to force Big Tech to stop censoring the American people, giving some bases for the case amid concerns that the lawsuit would be “dead on arrival.”
In an opinion article written and published in Wall Street Journal, Trump clarified why he is suing Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, one day after he announced the class-action lawsuit against the tech giants.
According to the former president, one of the gravest threats to democracy today is a powerful group of Big Tech corporations that have teamed up with the government to censor free speech in the United States.
“This is not only wrong—it is unconstitutional,” he wrote, adding that the lawsuit would help restore free speech for himself and every American.
Trump argued that social media has become central to free speech as town hall meetings, newspapers, and television networks were in prior generations. However, in recent years, “Big Tech platforms have become increasingly brazen and shameless in censoring and discriminating against ideas, information and people on social media—banning users, deplatforming organizations, and aggressively blocking the free flow of information on which our democracy depends.”
Trump alleged that Big Tech giants are now no longer simply removing specific threats of violence but manipulating and controlling the political debate itself. They banned users from their platforms for publishing evidence that showed COVID-19 emerged from a Chinese lab. In the middle of a virus pandemic, they censored physicians from discussing potential treatments such as hydroxychloroquine. In the weeks before a presidential election, they banned the New York Post for publishing a story critical of Joe Biden’s family.
“Perhaps most egregious, in the weeks after the election, Big Tech blocked the social-media accounts of the sitting president,” Trump wrote, warning the public that, “If they can do it to me, they can do it to you—and believe me, they are.”
Trump pointed to some cases to prove his claims. For instant, Jennifer Horton, a Michigan teacher, was banned from Facebook for sharing an article questioning whether mandatory masks for young children are healthy. Later, when her brother went missing, she was unable to use that social network to get the word out.
After she made a video for her church explaining how to hold services safely, YouTube de-platformed Colorado physician Kelly Victory after she made a video for her church. Or a couple in Florida lost their 21-year-old son in a fatal collision caused by a twice-deported illegal alien, but Facebook censored them after they posted on border security and immigration enforcement.
Meanwhile, Chinese propagandists and the Iranian dictator spew threats and hateful lies on these platforms with impunity.
“This flagrant attack on free speech is doing terrible damage to our country,” Trump wrote. “That is why in conjunction with the America First Policy Institute, I filed class-action lawsuits to force Big Tech to stop censoring the American people.”
After Trump announced the lawsuit, there are concerns that it is going nowhere because courts have repeatedly rejected the claim that social media “censorship” violates the First Amendment, saying Big Tech giants are private entities and not government actors. In addition, the attempt to strike down Section 230 as unconstitutional is somewhat bizarre given that Trump justified the lawsuits against Big Tech by referring to Section 230.
But in his op-ed article, Trump said that “our lawsuits argue that Big Tech companies are being used to impose illegal and unconstitutional government censorship.”
Congress has recognized that they are exactly platforms, not publishers. Unlike publishers, companies such as Facebook and Twitter cannot be held legally liable for the content posted to their sites. Without this immunity, social media companies could not exist.
Trump said that Democrats in Congress are exploiting this leverage to coerce platforms into censoring their political opponents. In recent years, people have watched Congress haul Big Tech CEOs before their committees and demand that they censor “false” stories and “disinformation”—labels determined by an army of partisan fact-checkers loyal to the Democrat Party.
Further, Big Tech and government agencies are actively coordinating to remove content from the platforms according to the guidance of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump continued, adding that they are doing the government’s bidding, colluding to censor unapproved ideas.
The former president claimed that this coercion and coordination is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has held that Congress cannot use private actors to achieve what the Constitution prohibits it from doing itself.
“In effect, Big Tech has been illegally deputized as the censorship arm of the U.S. government,” Trump wrote. “This should alarm you no matter your political persuasion. It is unacceptable, unlawful and un-American.”
Trump expressed his hope the lawsuit would help restore free speech for all Americans, including Republicans, independents, and even Democrats.