Ex-President Donald Trump, furious over his ban from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube after inciting a violent insurrection, is launching separate class-action lawsuits against the CEOs of those social media giants, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, respectively, along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai (Google owns YouTube).
Trump announced the lawsuits at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey on Wednesday in a rambling speech accusing the companies of “shameful censorship” and framing the suits as advocacy for “freedom of speech.”
The ex-president stated that he seeks to have his accounts restored and to collect “punitive damages” through the suits, which are filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
“Through this lawsuit, we are standing up for American democracy,” said Trump, who fought tooth and nail to overturn the will of the voters in the 2020 election by filing countless flimsy lawsuits and eventually encouraging his supporters to storm the Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory on January 6. That event proved to be the final straw for Facebook and Twitter.
Trump’s lawsuit against Zuckerberg is joined by Facebook users who were banned for violating the platform’s rules on spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine. As such, the 44-page filing at one point attempts to legitimize MAGAland’s falsehoods about the pandemic by claiming that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s expertise on COVID-19 was “highly questionable.” Even hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug Trump touted for months as a miracle drug for COVID-19, made an appearance in the filing.
Kate Klonick, an assistant professor of law at St. John’s University (and, full disclosure, a former TPM reporter!) said that Trump’s lawsuit gambit was “ludicrous on its face.”
Klonick, who researches legal issues around internet speech, pointed out that the suits don’t seem to grasp the basic principle of the First Amendment: that it protects against free speech infringement by the government, not bans by private social media companies.
“There’s just a bunch of misunderstandings of really fundamental aspects of the law here,” she told TPM.
You can read the text of the suit against Zuckerberg in the linked article. But rather than point out the fundamental flaws in the argument, and skipping over the clickbait fund-raising both Trump and his allied groups are doing with the suits, let me point out with no sense of pride whatsoever that the law office listed on the suit is located down here in Coral Gables. It makes me wonder what kind of conversation went on at that firm to get them to agree to take it on; not only to challenge the First Amendment with a specious argument that Facebook and Twitter are essentially part of the government, but to put their firm’s reputation on the line for a client who is infamous for not paying his bills. Did they get a whopping big retainer up front and waited until the check cleared before filing? What makes them think they won’t end up getting sanctioned by the Florida Bar Association for filing a frivolous suit, or that they have the resources to stay in business once they get laughed out of court, if not sanctioned by the court?
I realize that the canons of legal ethics require that an attorney must zealously defend his client to the full extent of the law, but there’s nothing in those canons that say they have to take the case in the first place. But when you read about ridiculous lawsuits filed by people who want to sue God for ruining their day, remember that behind every whacky client, there’s an attorney who told them they could win.