A judge dismissed a lawsuit former President Trump brought 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 state a claim.”
Trump, the American Conservative Union and five other people claimed Twitter violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment after it “censored” their accounts. U.S. District Judge for Northern California James Donato rejected their argument because Twitter is a private company, and the free speech clause in the Constitution applies only to the government. The judge found no evidence that Twitter acted on behalf of government officials, as plaintiffs also alleged.
The plaintiffs also accused Twitter of violating two Florida acts — the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Stop Social Media Censorship Act. The lawsuit, which was 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 will govern all disputes that arise between Twitter and its users,” the 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 at the time the state’s act went into effect. Therefore, the majority of the plaintiffs cannot argue they were protected under the Stop Social Media Censorship Act.
Finally, the plaintiffs asked the judge to rule Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from liability for content posted on their platforms, unconstitutional. Donato dismissed this request “for lack of standing.”
Trump’s account was temporarily frozen in January 2021 after the U.S. Capitol riot. Days later, Twitterfrom the platform. Trump Twitter, as well as Facebook and YouTube, which also removed his accounts, in July 2021.
“We’re demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and canceling that you know so well,” Trump said at the time. “I am confident that we will achieve a historic victory for American freedom and at the same time freedom of speech.”
The social media company has defended its decision to permanently ban Trump from the platform. Dorsey said in January 2021 that suspending Trump was “the right decision for Twitter” as it faced “an extraordinary and untenable circumstance” that forced it “to focus all of our actions on public safety.”
Dorsey also expressed concern, however, saying the decision “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over part of the global public conversation.”
Although Donato dismissed the lawsuit, he said the plaintiffs could file an amended complaint by May 27.
Sophie Lewis and Musadiq Bidar contributed reporting.