May 10, 2022 – Trump Class Action Against Twitter Dismissed
The proposed class action filed by former President Donald Trump against Twitter and former CEO Jack Dorsey was dismissed with leave to amend on May 6, 2022.
United States District Judge James Donato noted early in his 17-page order that the “[p]laintiffs are not starting from a position of strength” given that Twitter is a private company and “’the First Amendment applies only to governmental abridgements of speech, and not alleged abridgments by private companies.” Judge Donato ruled that the plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that Twitter was “behaving as a state actor” pursuant to “a governmental policy” when it closed Trump and other conservatives’ accounts in the wake of the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021.
“The amended complaint merely offers a grab-bag of allegations to the effect that some Democratic members of Congress wanted Mr. Trump, and ‘the views he espoused,’ to be banned from Twitter because such ‘content and views’ were ‘contrary to those of legislators’ preferred points of view,’” the judge stated. “But the comments of a handful of elected officials are a far cry from a ‘rule of decision for which the State is responsible.’”
Judge Donato stressed that legislators are “perfectly free” to express opinions without being deemed an official voice of “the State.”
“Government in our republic of elected representatives would be impossible otherwise,” the order says. “It is also not plausible to conclude that Twitter or any other listener could discern a clear state rule in such remarks, or even determine what a legislator’s ‘preferred views’ might be.”
The plaintiffs have until May 27, 2022 to file an amended suit and may not add any new claims or defendants without the court’s leave to do so.
“Plaintiffs are advised that further opportunities to amend are not likely to be granted,” Judge Donato wrote.
Want to stay in the loop on class actions that matter to you? Sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.
Former President Donald Trump has filed separate proposed class actions against Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and the companies’ CEOs over what he alleges to be the tech giants’ “impermissible censorship” in the face of potential legislative action.
Trump alleges in each lawsuit, filed on July 7 in Florida’s Southern District Court, that Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have increasingly engaged in “a misguided reliance upon Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act,” such that the companies’ alleged conduct “rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor.” As such, Trump alleges, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are “constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions [they] make.”
“Legislation passed twenty-five (25) years ago intended to protect minors from the transmission of obscene materials on the Internet, and to promote the growth and development of social media companies, has enabled [the defendant] to grow into a commercial giant that now censors (flags, demonetization, bans, etc.) and otherwise restricts with impunity the constitutionally protected free speech of the Plaintiff and the Putative Class Members,” the lawsuits allege. “The immediacy of Defendants’ threats to its Users’ and potentially every citizen’s right to free speech, cannot be overstated. Defendants’ callous disregard of its Users’ constitutional rights is no better exemplified than in the matter currently before the Court.”
The 45th president of the United States also claimed in the politically charged, long-shot lawsuits that the companies have taken to censoring the “views and content” of proposed class members with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic and the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.
Each complaint notes that the respective platforms banned the former president indefinitely in January 2021. The bans, which came in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, in which the former president’s supporters stormed the Capitol Building, killing five and injuring more than 140 others, extended the tech companies’ “conditional and unconstitutional prior restraint” of Trump’s right to free speech as a private citizen until at least January 2023, the lawsuits say.
According to Trump, who claims his banning on the platforms came “at the behest of, and with cooperation from, and the approval of, Democrat lawmakers,” censorship “runs rampant against the Putative Class Members, and the result is a chilling effect cast over our nation’s pressing political, medical, social, and cultural discussions.”
In each lawsuit, Trump asks the court to declare Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act “an unconstitutional delegation of authority.”
Also named as defendants in the cases are Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, YouTube CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
NPR relays that previous attempts to sue the defendants over their content-moderation decisions have quickly been tossed by courts. Last week, a federal judge in Florida halted a new law that aimed to punish social media companies for their moderation of politicians’ posts, according to an Associated Press report.
“Digital services have a right to enforce their terms of service,” Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association told the legal industry publication in a statement. “Frivolous class action litigation will not change the fact that users—even U.S. presidents—have to abide by the rules they agreed to.”
Law360 added that Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a senior counselor with the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, said the allegation that social media platforms carry water with regard to government censorship is particularly meritless.
“The fact that platforms talk to the government, and even cooperate on taking down speakers who violate the law or threaten national security does not make them instruments of the state,” Schwartzman said. “Everything in these complaints is preposterous, which should not come as a surprise given Trump’s affinity for filing frivolous lawsuits.”
The complaints against Twitter, YouTube and Facebook can be found below in PDF format.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.