January 29, 2023

LITIGIOUS LEANINGS: Twitter still faces Trump lawsuit despite reinstating his account

LITIGIOUS LEANINGS: Twitter still faces Trump lawsuit despite reinstating his account

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Donald Trump is not willing to let go of a lawsuit against Twitter for ‘censoring’ him through enforcement of site rules, and eventually, an account ban, despite his reinstatement to the site.

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The lawsuit has already been hit with an initial failure in court, where United States District Judge James Donato dismissed the complaint and described the allegations therein — including the notion that the U.S. Government somehow compelled Twitter’s actions in banning Trump or deleting his tweets, while Trump was at the head of said government — as either not plausible, or not plausibly alleged.

Trump appealed.

Now, Trump has access to Twitter again, but he’s not tweeting, and his attorneys say he’s also not dropping the case.

“There’s more to it than just letting him back in so we want to talk to see if we can figure something out,” Trump’s attorneys reason.

Alex Abdo, for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, suggests that the former president is likely still hoping to be paid damages by Twitter, which he alleges damaged his ability to carry out a number of activities, including “laying a foundation for a potential 2024 Presidential campaign.”

However, the case was always deemed a long shot by most analysts, who generally agree that U.S. law protects the right of a platform to determine what content it allows.

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Trump’s restoration of access isn’t likely to help his case, either.

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“Without an agreement on terms to end the court dispute, Trump has no plan to withdraw his appeal of a May ruling that dismissed his challenge to the company’s decision to ban him from the platform after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, said John Coale, his attorney…If the case isn’t resolved with a settlement, a final ruling could set an important precedent on the power of social media companies to deactivate accounts of users found to have violated terms of service,” Bloomberg reported.

Trump’s lawsuit, originally filed last summer, claims that his bans and other disciplinary actions taken by the social media site were actually imposed by Congressional Democrats:

“Defendants deplatformed Plaintiff at the behest of, with cooperation from, and with the approval of, Democrat lawmakers…Democrat legislators in Congress feared Plaintiff’s skilled use of social media as a threat to their own re-election efforts. These legislators exerted overt coercion, using both words and actions, to direct Defendants to censor the views and content which Democrat Members of Congress disagreed with, of both Plaintiff and Putative Class Members,” his lawsuit claims.

In dismissing the complaint, Judge Donato explained that Trump failed to demonstrate that the government interfered to cause Twitter to ban him or enforce content rules:

“Overall, the amended complaint does not plausibly allege that Twitter acted as a government entity when it closed plaintiffs’ accounts. This resolves the main thrust of plaintiffs’ state action theory…The government cannot plausibly be said to have compelled Twitter’s action through Section 230, which in any event imposed no affirmative obligations on Twitter to act in any particular way,” Judge Donato ruled.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit gets the next shot at the case, and it remains to be seen whether the appellate court will see any greater merit in Trump’s claims

Steph Bazzle covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph.

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