(RightWing.org) – It’s been over six months since President Donald Trump was censored by Big Tech and banned from their platforms. Following that was a litany of other censorship actions against conservatives that left the impression they were being singled out for their political views. They may have a case to be made. On Wednesday, July 7, Trump took the extraordinary measure of suing Facebook, Twitter, Google, and their CEOs in what could be a landmark legal case about free speech rights and if they apply on social media.
At the heart of the matter, the case could force the courts to decide once and for all if private social media companies with enormous powers are private entities or a public service subject to government oversight and free speech privileges.
Trump Argues that Big Tech “Ceased to Be Private”
After the Capitol Hill riots that unfolded on January 6, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (owned by Google) banned the former president, alleging he incited violence. It appears Trump is going to put their allegations to the test in federal court. The former president announced a class-action lawsuit was filed with himself as the lead plaintiff. By making it a class-action suit, others who were censored and banned can join as interested parties.
While the former president acknowledged that the three tech giants are private companies, he claimed that “in recent years they have ceased to be private with the enactment and their historical use of Section 230, which profoundly protects them from liability.”
In 1996, Congress created Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act during the infant stage of the internet. At the time, there were simple search engines and forum websites that dominated the web. There was no dominant company in the early days of the wild wild west online. Social media didn’t come into existence as it’s known today until roughly 2008 to 2010. Section 230’s purpose was two-fold:
- Protect online service providers from liability when they don’t remove online content.
- Protect them from liability when they do remove content.
Trump claims that Section 230 became a “massive government subsidy” that allowed the tech giants to game the legal system. He said, “these companies have been co-opted, coerced, and weaponized by government actors to become the enforcers of illegal, unconstitutional censorship.”
Can a Private Company Censor the Public?
Traditionally, the answer is yes. Freedom of speech is a guarantee that a citizen can publicly criticize the government. However, what about when private companies suppress free speech using extraordinary power?
While the liberal media is clamoring that the case is dead on arrival, they may want to hold their horses if it goes to the Supreme Court. In April, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that privately-held social media companies allow users to join for free, and it’s openly available to the public. As a public forum much like the old traditional public square where ideas were presented and debated, social media companies “resemble common carriers” and “places of public accommodation.”
🚨Clarence Thomas suggests that social media companies may NOT have a First Amendment right to regulate speech on their platforms, analogizing them to "common carriers" and "places of public accommodation." https://t.co/2zx7nCtIAz pic.twitter.com/ZleTE1aI0S
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) April 5, 2021
Common carriers are required to treat everyone equally due to their massive market power. Today, common carriers include utility and telecommunications companies, among others.
There’s no way to know how the lower courts would rule. Federal judges could agree with Justice Thomas. If so, it would hand conservatives a significant win against the private tech giants.
Once again, it’s Donald Trump leading the way and fighting for the rights of all Americans.
Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst
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