Last week Trump’s spokes shill tweeted that Trump would “make a huge announcement” on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. That day has come and the announcement is living down to the expectations that most people have for the one-term, twice-impeached, former reality TV game show host who is indisputably America’s biggest loser.
From his Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort, Trump delivered a nearly hour long address to reveal his intention to file a lawsuit against “Big Tech” companies, Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Make no mistake, this alleged litigation (there is no evidence yet that it’s been filed) is driven purely by Trump’s voracious ego and thirst for revenge.
After having his accounts on social media suspended for blatant violations of their terms of service, Trump is proposing to exploit the courts to punish the private companies who took responsible actions to stem his inflammatory rhetoric. He already incited a deadly insurrection in Washington, D.C., on January 6th, and he is continuing his bellicose “Big Lie” rants that drove his glassy-eyed disciples to riot and storm the Capitol.
Trump’s tedious dissertation on his pending lawsuit was filled with bizarre and legally preposterous assertions. He starts off describing this suit as the beginning of a much bigger initiative. “We will take this battle,” he promises, “to state legislatures, to Congress, and to the ballot box.” But the whole premise of the action is ludicrous. Trump thinks that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (which protects free speech) makes social media liable as “government actors” and subject to First Amendment prohibitions against censorship:
“Once they got Section 230 they’re no longer private companies anymore in a lot of views. […] These companies have been coopted, coerced and weaponized by government and by government actors to become the enforcers of illegal, unconstitutional censorship.
Not only is Trump’s interpretation of Section 230 completely off, he is articulating a paranoid, crackpot conspiracy theory that social media companies are in cahoots with the feds to silence him. Like his unhinged raving about election fraud, there is no evidence of these allegations either. But that doesn’t stop him from spouting off incoherently (video below) Some excerpts follow:
“Today, in conjunction with the America First Policy Institute, I’m filing as the lead class representative a major class action lawsuit against the big tech giants, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, as well as their CEOs Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey. Three real nice guys. We’re asking the district court for the Southern District of Florida to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ illegal, shameful censorship of the American people. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
We’re demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing, a stop to the blacklisting, banishing, and canceling that you know so well. Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s completely un-American. We all know that. We know that very, very well. Our lawsuit also seeks injunctive relief to allow prompt restitution.”
Trump didn’t cite a single legal principle to support his claims. That’s because he can’t. The Constitution’s First Amendment prohibits government censorship. Hence the wording that “Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Trump actually undermines his case by bragging about all the avenues of speech he has available to him that he insists are successful (they aren’t).
“We’re in a fight, we’re in a fight that we’re going to win. So many people have said to me, ‘Please sir, do something about big tech. Sue them, sir. Sue them.’ And they’ve been saying it to me for a long time. But there has never been a better time to do it. Polling released by Scott Rasmussen, highly respected, shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that big tech companies should be required to abide by the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.”
Trump always has a “sir” story wherein some beleaguered soul begs him to do something that really only benefits Trump. And his reliance on the notoriously disreputable Rasmussen for polling data doesn’t advance his legal interests. Even reputable polls are not legal arguments. Cases are decided by statute and precedent, not popularity.
“Social Media has given extraordinary power to a group of Big Tech Giants that are working with government, the mainstream media, and a large segment of a political party to silence and suppress the views of the American people. And they’ve been very, very successful at that. Not in all cases, but in many cases totally successful.”
This is more conspiracy mongering that now includes a cabal comprised of the government, tech companies, the media, and Democrats. If you ask him, Trump would probably add academia, banking, the judiciary, liberal churches, and the Girl Scouts of America.
Following his prepared, TelePrompTer remarks, Trump took questions from what was obviously an exclusive club of ultra-conservative media. Every question was framed positively for Trump, or prefaced with adoring commentary. That’s just more proof that Trump can’t be taken seriously that he cares about a free press. Which, you recall, he has repeatedly maligned in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the People.”
It’s impossible to set aside Trump’s flaming hypocrisy in all of this. After all, he’s the first one to “cancel” anyone who dares to contradict him. He is the undisputed King of Cancel Culture. He has called for dozens of boycotts of American companies. He even expressed his regret that he didn’t ban Facebook and Twitter when he mistakenly thought he could have as president. And now his buddy, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, is pushing a state law that would make it illegal for private companies to monitor their own website comments.
It’s from that perch of police state prohibition that Trump is heralding his campaign for free speech. So not only is Trump on swampy ground legally, he’s up to both of his chins in hypocrisy. This lawsuit, if it is ever actually filed, is going nowhere in hurry, according to most legal experts.
However, let’s hope that this suit isn’t dismissed before the defendants can conduct discovery. There is a wealth of information that can be acquired regarding Trump’s activities prior to, and during the insurrection, his relationships with right-wing media (Fox News, Newsmax, OAN, etc.), and efforts to unlawfully damage the commercial interests of private companies against whom he holds grudges. That should be fun.
UPDATE: It’s All About the Grift! David Corn of Mother Jones spells out the latest con.
“In typical Trumpian fashion, the cases were amateurishly cobbled together, with arguments and contentions that legal experts immediately derided. […] Trump has a long history of both threatening suits that never materialize and filing bogus cases that go nowhere.” […]
“Other than ginning up the Big Lie believers, there is another strong reason for Trump to proceed with this case: money. Lots of money. No sooner had Trump’s lawyers filed when his grift-machine kicked into action. A text message was sent to Trump supporters hitting them up for donations. “President Trump is filing a LAWSUIT against Facebook and Twitter for UNFAIR CENSORSHIP!” it proclaimed.”
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