U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in San Francisco granted Twitter’s motion Friday to dismiss former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit against the company for permanently banning him and others from the social media platform allegedly squelching their freedom of speech.
Trump, the American Conservative Union, and five other individuals sued Twitter and its co-founder Jack Dorsey in 2021 on behalf of themselves and a class of other Twitter users who had been banned from the site.
The former president’s attorneys argued in their court filing that Twitter “exercises a degree of power and control over political discourse in this country that is immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate.”
After dismissing the suit, the judge said he will allow Trump’s attorneys to file an amended complaint that is “consistent with this order” by May 27. The complaint is not allowed to contain any new claims or defendants without prior permission from the court, according to Fox Business.
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) May 6, 2022
Former President Trump's suit against @Twitter for suspending his account has just been dismissed by Judge Donato in San Francisco. #section230 #content moderation #FirstAmendment pic.twitter.com/5QxHO66UfL
— Mike Swift (@Swiftstories) May 6, 2022
Trump’s lawsuit contended that Twitter violated the First Amendment, asserted that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is unconstitutional, and accused the social media platform of “deceptive and misleading practices” that are in violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Donato declared in his order that since Twitter is a private company, the First Amendment is not applicable to the suit. He also commented in his 17-page ruling that the former president was “not starting from a position of strength” by using the First Amendment argument.
“Twitter is a private company, and ‘the First Amendment applies only to governmental abridgments of speech, and not to alleged abridgments by private companies,’” the judge noted.
Donato rejected the argument that Twitter’s ban was attributable to the government’s actions and therefore violated the First Amendment.
“Overall, the amended complaint does not plausibly allege that Twitter acted as a government entity when it closed plaintiffs’ accounts,” Donato wrote.
Does anyone else think the government had some involvement, direct or indirect, in banning Trump from Twitter?
— American Lawyer ❤️🇺🇸❤️🇮🇱🗣 (@Synchro2021) May 7, 2022
The judge dismissed the claim that the federal Communications Decency Act was unconstitutional after finding that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to challenge it. Donato stated that the only way they could have such standing was to show that Twitter “would not have de-platformed the plaintiff” or others but for the legal immunity conferred by the CDA when it came to content.
Donato dismissed the third claim asserting that Twitter had violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices because Trump and the other plaintiffs agreed that California law would govern disputes between Twitter and its users, as Twitter’s terms of service state.
He also dismissed a fourth claim in the suit, made under Florida’s Stop Social Media Censorship Act.
Donato remarked that only one named plaintiff in the case, Dominick Latella, had an active Twitter account at the time Florida’s law took effect on July 1, 2021, and therefore is the only plaintiff who could conceivably have a claim under the law.
“There is also a major concern about the enforceability of the SSMCA,” the judge said.
“Florida government officials were enjoined from enforcing the SSMCA on June 30, 2021, the day before the law was to take effect, in a well-reasoned decision issued by the Northern District of Florida,” which found the law violated the First Amendment, he wrote.
Twitter permanently banned Trump from the platform in January 2021. The company alleged that he somehow contributed to the Jan. 6 protest and the violence that ensued.
— Shem Horne (@Shem_Infinite) May 6, 2022
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida but then was transferred to Donato’s court.
Donato’s ruling comes almost two weeks after Trump stated that he had no interest in returning to Twitter even if his ban were to be lifted by Tesla CEO Elon Musk who is purchasing the social media platform with the stated goal of restoring free speech on it.
Trump was an avid Twitter user who tweeted an average of more than 30 posts per day according to CNBC. The former president had nearly 90 million followers on Twitter when he was banned from the platform.
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