Former US President Donald Trump has announced his intention to launch a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter and Google over claims they censor conservative voices.
The announcement was made by Trump at a press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Legal action will be taken against each of the tech giants, Trump revealed, as well as their respective CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai.
At the press conference, he introduced seven additional people he claimed were joining the class action after being banned from social media.
“We’re asking the US district court for the southern district of Florida to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ illegal, shameful censorship of the American people,” Trump stated.
“We’re demanding an end to the shadow banning, a stop to the silencing, a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and cancelling that you know so well. Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful. It’s unconstitutional, and it’s completely un-American.”
He is claiming that by removing him from their platforms, the tech giants violated their terms of service and the US First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech.
The Trump lawsuit also calls for the courts to order Facebook and Twitter to reinstate his accounts and impose punitive damages on the firms.
A crucial defence that the tech companies have against the suit is an American law, Section 230. This protects interactive computer service providers from being held responsible for the information published by their content providers.
While Trump signed an executive order while in power to revoke Section 230, the move was revoked by his successor, Joe Biden, earlier this year.
A statement from advocacy group Netchoice, which includes Amazon among its members, claims the Trump lawsuit will likely come to nothing. “The First Amendment is designed to protect the media from the President, not the other way around,” said NetChoice CEO Steve DelBianco.
“The First Amendment protects Americans and our media from government control. Mr. Trump’s mistaken view of the First Amendment would empower the government to direct, mandate, and ban political speech on the internet.”
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Social media has long been key to Trump’s ability to reach and motivate his audience.
However, in the wake of the June 6th attack on the US Capitol building, where five people died when supporters of the then-President stormed the building, social media companies deemed that the controversial president had finally crossed the line.
Trump’s Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram accounts were all locked on the basis that his rhetoric had led to the attack on the Capitol. Furthermore, both Twitter and Facebook cited that they believed his posts would increase the risk of ongoing violence.
Without social media, Trump has lost a crucial channel to express his views and opinions. Several new social media platforms have sprung up in an attempt to court both Trump and his audience.
Telegram, an existing messaging app, has also proven popular with Trump’s supporter.
However, apps specifically designed to attract the former President’s supporters have had a rocky history. Parler, a Twitter-like app that emphasised an unmoderated, free speech approach to content, was taken down by its web hosting company on the basis that it promoted violent content.
After a few months – and a high-profile data leak – the site has since returned.
The latest app to target Trump’s audience, Gettr, had an almost overnight rise and fall. Within days of launch, it was bombarded with explicit content and hackers were able to scrape the email addresses from over 85,000 users.
Meanwhile, Trump’s own blog shutdown after a month after failing to reach a similar audience to his previous social media reach.