Former President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he is filing suits against three of the country's biggest tech companies: Facebook, Twitter and Google, as well as their CEOs.
Trump said he was serving as lead plaintiff in the class-action suit, which also names the three companies' CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey, as defendants, claiming he has been wrongfully censored by the companies.
Trump said he's seeking immediate injunctive relief in order to restore his social media accounts and demanded an end of what he called "shadow-banning" and "blacklisting."
"In addition, we are asking the court to impose punitive damages on these social media giants," Trump said at an event at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course Wednesday morning.
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The suits were filed in U.S. District Court for Florida's southern district.
U.S. courts have previously rejected similar lawsuits. Last year, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit that accused Twitter, Facebook and other tech giants of conspiring to stifle the political views of a far-right activist and a conservative nonprofit. Company lawyers argued that private online service providers are not "state actors," so their moderation of online content moderation is not limited by the First Amendment. The appeals court panel agreed, saying the First Amendment generally “prohibits only governmental abridgment of speech."
Trump was suspended from Twitter and Facebook after his followers stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6. The companies cited concerns that he would incite further violence. Currently, he can no longer post on either platform.
Nonetheless, Trump has continued to spread lies about the 2020 election, baselessly claiming that he won, even though state and local election officials, his own attorney general and numerous judges, including some he appointed, have said there is no evidence of the mass voter fraud he alleges.
Under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, internet companies are generally exempt from liability for the material that users post. The law, which provides a legal “safe harbor” for internet companies, also allows social media platforms to moderate their services by removing posts that, for instance, are obscene or violate the services’ own standards, so long as they are acting in “good faith.”
But Trump and other politicians have long argued that Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms have abused that protection and should lose their immunity — or at least have to earn it by satisfying requirements set by the government.
Google and Twitter didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Facebook declined comment on the suit.