WASHINGTON – Donald Trump said Wednesday he sued the top officials of Facebook and Twitter for keeping him off social media, though legal analysts said the former president’s class-action lawsuit has virtually no chance of success.
Facebook and Twitter are private companies with the right to moderate their platforms, legal analysts said, and Trump’s lawsuit looks to be more of a political maneuver and fundraising opportunity.
In a news conference from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump said his class-action lawsuit filed in South Florida targets CEOs Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Sundar Pichai of Google and Alphabet.
“We are going to hold Big Tech very accountable,” Trump said.
Trump accused the companies of violating First Amendment free speech rights through “censorship” against him and others, “blacklisting” and “canceling” people for political reasons. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone,” he said.
The First Amendment, which says, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” applies to government entities, not private domains.
Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor, tweeted, “The very first word of the First Amendment is ‘Congress’ (as in ‘shall make no law…’). That means the First Amendment applies to governmental actors, not private companies.”
Less prominent people have sued Facebook and Twitter, but the lawsuits went nowhere.
Trump “just wants a PR and fundraising moment, not a real lawsuit,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington-based attorney.
He said, “It’s been tried before and failed every time.”
As the former president announced his lawsuit, pro-Trump organizations sent out fundraising solicitations to support it. Trump, who is considering another presidential run in 2024, attacked Big Tech as part of the 2020 presidential campaign he lost to Joe Biden.
Facebook and Twitter banned Trump after the insurrection Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, saying his false claims about a “rigged election” threatened to trigger more violence by supporters.
Spokespeople for Facebook and Twitter had no comment on Trump’s lawsuit.
The bans from Twitter and Facebook have made it harder for Trump to get out his messages.
Trump began speaking out on a new website but shut it down after a month. Aides developed a social media platform for him and his followers called GETTR.
In early June, Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld Trump’s suspension, which also covers his Instagram account.
There are questions as to how avidly Trump will pursue the lawsuit.
Attorneys said legal discovery would open Trump to questions about his actions, including those before the insurrection by his supporters.
Also, “he’ll almost certainly lose,” Moss said.