Donald Trump announces a frivolous lawsuit
Donald Trump announces a frivolous lawsuit

Seek­ing to col­lect cash, cling to his fol­low­ing and draw atten­tion, Don­ald Trump told an hour-long news con­fer­ence Wednes­day he will be the lead plain­tiff in a class action suit against tech giants Twit­ter, Face­book, and Google as well as their chief exec­u­tive offi­cers (Jack Dorsey, Mark Zucker­berg, Sun­dar Pichai).

Trump is strik­ing out at those who banned him after his role incit­ing the mob of ter­ror­ists who invad­ed the U.S. Capi­tol on Jan­u­ary 6th, assault­ed Capi­tol Police, ter­ror­ized mem­bers of Con­gress, and chant­ed  “Hang Pence”, nam­ing Trump’s own vice pres­i­dent. The mob sought to halt Con­gress’ count of elec­toral votes that put Joe Biden in the White House. Pence was serv­ing as pre­sid­ing officer.

“There is no bet­ter evi­dence that big tech is out of con­trol than the fact that they banned the sit­ting Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States ear­li­er this year,” said Trump.

“If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone.”

Trump is banned, per­ma­nent­ly from Twit­ter – his chief plat­form, used to fire Cab­i­net sec­re­taries dur­ing his admin­is­tra­tion – and is barred from Face­book for at least two more years. The for­mer occu­pant of 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue was impeached by the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for his actions as inciter-in-chief.

Trump is a liti­gious guy, but with a record of rarely fol­low­ing through on bal­ly­hooed law­suits. He is charg­ing that big tech has cen­sored he and oth­ers on the far right with biased poli­cies. But he has fur­nished no evi­dence to sup­port the claim. While say­ing Trump’s First Amend­ment rights have been denied, the suit makes no sim­i­lar claim about the tech com­pa­nies’ bar­ring of pornog­ra­phy or Russ­ian and Chi­nese dis­in­for­ma­tion claims.

The law­suit was filed in the U.S. Dis­trict Court in South­ern Flori­da. The Sun­shine State became Trump’s legal res­i­dence in 2019, after he aban­doned New York.

How­ev­er, the terms of ser­vice for both Face­book and Twit­ter say that the venue for any legal dis­putes shall be the Cal­i­for­nia courts, state and federal.

Trump drove up cable tele­vi­sion rat­ings through the 2016 cam­paign and much of his pres­i­den­cy. Nowa­days, how­ev­er, his nim­bus may be wear­ing thin.

CNN and MSNBC did not broad­cast his news con­fer­ence, held at his Bed­min­ster, New Jer­sey golf course. Rupert Mur­doch’s Fox pro­pa­gan­da chan­nel cut away as Trump launched into an hour-long recita­tion of griev­ances and denun­ci­a­tion of “Demo­c­rat-led cities.” Only News­max stayed with him.

The law­suit does offer Trump an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cash out.

A “Save Amer­i­ca” fundrais­ing blast went out, say­ing “Pres­i­dent Trump is fil­ing a law­suit against Face­book and Twit­ter for unfair cen­sor­ship. For the next hour, we’ve acti­vat­ed a 5X Impact on all gifts.” Trump sup­port­ers were offered the oppor­tu­ni­ty “to get your name on the donor list that Pres­i­dent Trump sees.”

(Like Tim Eyman mon­ey rais­ing appeals here in Wash­ing­ton State, come-ons from Trump fea­ture lots of cap­i­tal let­ters and hyperbole.)

The class action suit is being backed and han­dled by the Amer­i­ca First Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, a front set up by Trump sup­port­ers after he left office.

The fil­ing is noth­ing if not ambi­tious. It demands that the tech giants hand over puni­tive dam­ages to the twice-impeached pres­i­dent and restore his accounts.

It also asks the fed­er­al courts throw out Sec­tion 230 of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Decen­cy Act as “an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al del­e­ga­tion of authority.”

Face­book, YouTube and Twit­ter are not pri­vate tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies but actu­al­ly arms of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, or so argues the com­plaint, because they have worked with pub­lic offi­cials and agen­cies (e.g. the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol) to for­mu­late poli­cies on mis­in­for­ma­tion. The firms’ “sta­tus thus ris­es beyond that of a pri­vate com­pa­ny to that of a state actor” in the rea­son­ing of Trump law.

“This law­suit is a stunt, and it’s unlike­ly to find trac­tion in the courts,” Jameel Jaf­fer, direc­tor of the Knight First Amend­ment Insti­tute at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, told the Dai­ly Beast.

As usu­al, Trump wants every­thing he does to be seen in the con­text of size. The suit against big tech will “go down as the biggest class action ever filed because thou­sands of peo­ple want to join,” Trump claimed Wednesday.

Even in fil­ing a class action law­suit, how­ev­er, Trump lacks class.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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