I don’t know how much money Trump’s lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (and their CEOs) will help him raise, or whether it will gain him political support, but I do know one thing about these cases – they have no basis in current law.
Of course it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Republican judges in Florida will see it his way, but it seems very unlikely.
At issue is the infamous Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) – 47 USC Section 230. The relevant part of this law states:
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of–
(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected
Trump argues that the companies are state actors and are required to host content protected by the First Amendment.
However, the courts have consistently held that social media companies like Facebook are not state actors subject to the First Amendment, and that their decisions to delete or block access to a user’s account fall squarely within Section 230 immunity.
Not surprisingly, the prolific Prof. Eric Goldman explains why Trump has no case in this interview by Michael Smerconish:
Prof. Goldman has a paper coming shortly which analyzes 61 prior lawsuits by users over having their account terminated or content removed. In every case Internet service providers have won lawsuits challenging termination/removal decisions:
I have a paper coming very soon which analyzed 61 prior lawsuits by users over having their account terminated or content removed. A snippet: pic.twitter.com/PbE5Z5SvCz
— Eric Goldman (he/him) (@ericgoldman) July 7, 2021
You can’t know for sure, but to say that Trump’s lawsuits are a long shot doesn’t do them justice.