Former U.S. President Donald Trump (Trump) announced Wednesday (July 7) that he is filing a lawsuit against three major technology companies, Twitter, Facebook and Google, to defend the right to free speech.
The companies froze Trump’s social media accounts six months ago, citing comments he made after the Jan. 6 incident at the Capitol.
Trump and his team held a press conference in Bedminster, N.J., on Wednesday. They say the lawsuits are designed to protect First Amendment free speech rights; when the Big Three tech companies banned Trump, they deprived him of rights he should have had.
Trump himself described the big lawsuit as a “very nice development” in protecting free speech in the United States. He will file the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and will ask a judge to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ alleged banning, censorship, blacklisting and cancellation of people who express political views outside the mainstream.
“It’s destroying this country,” Trump said of social media’s control of political discourse.
Twitter, Facebook and Google said in January that they froze Trump’s social media accounts after he claimed the Nov. 3 election was stolen and said he contributed to the Jan. 6 violence.
Twitter executives said the ban on Trump would be permanent; Facebook announced a two-year ban on the former president’s accounts; and Google’s YouTube said it would scale back its ban on him until it could determine whether “the risk of violence has decreased.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, as well as the companies themselves, were named as defendants.
Trump said he would seek a court ruling and file a claim against the social media.
Trump argued that social media companies are “not private companies” and cited evidence that such companies are using Section 230 protection orders to protect themselves from liability.
Republicans generally believe that federal rules allow big tech companies to censor them, and some have suggested that social media giants should be regulated as public utilities.
Speaking of the lawsuits, Trump added, “This one is just the beginning.”
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), passed by Congress in 1996, allows that Internet companies are generally exempt from liability for material posted by users. The law provides a legal haven for Internet companies and also allows social media platforms to adapt their services, for example, by removing posts that are obscene or violate the service’s own standards, as long as they are done in “good faith.
Trump’s lawyers say the lawsuit will focus on Section 230, which they argue was created in the 1990s to protect children from harmful content online; Big Tech is now using the law as a shield, going beyond the original purpose of the bill.
His lawyer, Pam Bondi, said Big Tech can no longer get an exemption.
Since leaving office, Trump has issued statements through his Save America PAC and his post-presidential website.
The former president has so far not signed up for any new social media sites, such as Parler or GETTR.
He said Wednesday that he is not sure if he will use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube again if the lawsuit is successful.
Trump announced the lawsuit was backed by the America First Policy Institute; he added that he believes thousands more people could join his lawsuit.
Twitter, Facebook and Google have not commented on the lawsuit.