Trump's Silicon Valley Move May Be a Lose-Win Strategy

Legal experts think suits against social media giants are doomed, but they may fire up his base
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2021 1:23 PM CDT
Trump's Silicon Valley Move May Be a Lose-Win Strategy
Former President Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Wednesday, July 7, 2021.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Former President Trump went after Facebook, Twitter, and Google on Wednesday with class-action lawsuits that accuse them of censoring conservative views by banning him and others. The consensus in coverage is that the lawsuits stand little chance of succeeding, but that might be OK with Trump. Coverage:

  • An analysis at BuzzFeed notes that the suits are filled with arguments that have been previously rejected by courts, including the Supreme Court. For instance, Trump's legal team argues that the companies are so big they are in effect "state actors" that violated the First Amendment. But multiple courts have rejected efforts to pin the "state actor" label on social media companies.
  • “The lawsuits are claiming that the former president’s First Amendment rights were violated by the decision to suspend his account, when in fact that is exactly backwards,” says Caitlin Vogus of the Center for Democracy & Technology. “The First Amendment strongly protects the decision by these companies to make content moderation decisions.”

  • An analysis by Robby Soave at Reason also predicts the lawsuits are "going absolutely nowhere" because they are based "on this backward reading of the First Amendment." The piece cites a quote from Steve DelBianco of NetChoice: "The First Amendment is designed to protect the media from the President, not the other way around."
  • At the Week, Bonnie Kristian digs into the suit against Facebook in particular and agrees with the above sentiment that the legal strategy is not sound. "Its real value for Trump is indirect," she writes. "These don't seem to be lawsuits designed to succeed in court so much as tools of public relations and fundraising. They are strategic, performative, sometimes downright silly, and almost certainly legally doomed."
  • On that note, Forbes reports that GOP fundraising committees immediately capitalized on Trump's move to send out texts to potential donors. "IT HAPPENED,” wrote the Senate GOP fundraising arm, the NRSC, in one such text. “Trump announced he is fighting CENSORSHIP by SUING Big Tech companies.” The text promised a "5X MATCH" for donations. The Trump campaign sent out a similar message.
  • The Trump team also is arguing that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech companies in regard to content posted by third-party users, is unconstitutional. But legal experts tell Axios that this, too, is not a winning strategy here because it's irrelevant. "The defendants in Trump's cases will not assert Section 230 defenses," says one. "They will instead argue that they are not state actors. The courts will agree that the services aren't state actors. This is not a close call."
  • At the American Spectator, John Jiang supports the view that the tech giants are biased against the right, but he thinks Trump blew it by waiting until he was out of office to file the lawsuits. "Unfortunately, his big move against Silicon Valley" is "too little, too late."
(More President Trump stories.)

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