A federal judge in California dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Twitter Friday, dimming at least one avenue the former president and prolific tweeter might have used to get back to his platform of choice.
Trump’s argument that the social media company and its then-chief executive Jack Dorsey violated his right to free speech failed to convince Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California, to put it lightly.
“Plaintiffs’ main claim is that defendants have “censor[ed]” plaintiffs’ Twitter accounts in violation of their right to free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Donato wrote. “Plaintiffs are not starting from a position of strength.”
In tossing the suit as it stands, Donato pointed out the obvious: Twitter is a private company and is not bound by the First Amendment, which protects Americans from government efforts to limit speech. Essentially, Twitter can do whatever it wants when it comes to content moderation, just like any other online platform.
Donato shot down the connection Trump’s legal team tried to make between the U.S. government and Twitter, rejecting the assertion that the company was somehow acting on behalf of the federal government because Democratic lawmakers wanted Trump kicked off the platform.
“The amended complaint merely offers a grab-bag of allegations to the effect that some Democratic members of Congress wanted Mr. Trump, and ‘the views he espoused,’ to be banned from Twitter,” Donato wrote.
In spite of the lawsuit, Trump has claimed that he wouldn’t return to Twitter even if given the chance. And with the company under the erratic leadership of misguided free speech absolutist Elon Musk, he indeed might be given that opportunity. In the mean time, Trump continues to promote his own app, Truth Social, which currently sits in the eleventh place on the App Store’s social networking chart.
Trump and the other plaintiffs on the suit — organizations and individuals who were similarly booted from Twitter — will have a shot at revising their argument, but Donato points out that the bar is high because keeping private industry and the public sphere separate is “a matter of great importance.”
“Plaintiffs’ only hope of stating a First Amendment claim is to plausibly allege that Twitter was in effect operating as the government,” Donato wrote. “This is not an easy claim to make, for good reasons.”