A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by former President Trump last year against Twitter and its then-CEO Jack Dorsey. The social media giant had sought to dismiss the suit, which Trump filed after Twitter banned him from its platform, for “failure to plausibly make an assertion.”
Trump, the American Conservative Union and five others claimed Twitter violated their First Amendment right to free speech after it “censored” their accounts. U.S. District Judge for Northern California James Donato dismissed their argument because Twitter is a private company and the Constitution’s free speech clause only applies to government. The judge found no evidence that Twitter acted on behalf of government officials, as the plaintiffs also alleged.
The plaintiffs also accused Twitter of violating two Florida laws – the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Marketing Practices Act and the Stop Social Media Censorship Act. The lawsuit, originally filed in Florida, was moved to Northern California, where Twitter is located.
In response to the first act, the judge ruled that because Twitter’s terms of service state that “California law shall govern all disputes which arise between Twitter and its users”, plaintiffs could not accuse the company of violating a Florida law. For the second, the judge ruled that only one of the plaintiffs lived in Florida and had an active Twitter account when the state law went into effect. Therefore, the majority of plaintiffs cannot claim that they were protected under the Stop Social Media Censorship Act.
Finally, the plaintiffs asked the judge to declare unconstitutional Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from liability for content posted on their platforms. Donato dismissed this request “for lack of standing”.
Trump’s account was temporarily frozen in January 2021 after the US Capitol riot. A few days later, Twitterfrom the platform. Asset Twitter, along with Facebook and YouTube, which also deleted his accounts, in July 2021.
“We demand an end to the shadow ban, an end to the silence and an end to the blacklisting, banning and undoing that you know so well,” Trump said at the time. “I am convinced that we will achieve a historic victory for American freedom and at the same time freedom of expression.”
The social media company defended its decision to permanently ban Trump from the platform. Dorsey said in January 2021 that suspending Trump was “the right move for Twitter” because he faced “an extraordinary and untenable circumstance” that required him “to focus all of our actions on public safety.”
Dorsey also expressed concern, saying the ruling “sets a precedent that I think is dangerous: the power an individual or company has over part of the global public conversation.”
Although Donato dismissed the lawsuit, he said plaintiffs could file an amended complaint by May 27.
Sophie Lewis and Musadiq Bidar contributed reporting.