Trump Struggles Back Online; Sues Multiple Social Media Companies
Trump's newest lawsuit is an attempt to regain his relevance in the public discourse
Seven months after he was banned from Twitter and Facebook, the former president is suing both social media companies. The suit, announced on Wednesday, alleges that social media companies amount to a state actor, meaning they are governments and are, therefore, subject to the 1st Amendment. Though the former president and his allies appear confident in their ability to win the suit, the chances of its success are slim and are more in line with a vain attempt to get attention.
Trump’s efforts to get back into the public eye have all been met with overwhelming failure. Since his ban from Twitter, Trump has struggled to reach his audience as he once did. Trump and his allies attempted to counteract this lost attention with a personal blog in early May, but it quickly shut down after less than a month due to a lack of interest by the public.
Other attempts by Trumpists have faced similar failures. In the case of Parler, an app established before the January 6th attack and partially responsible for the planned assault has faced significant pushback on its failure to regulate its platform. Amazon, frustrated by the site's unwillingness to regulate its content, booted it from their servers, taking Parler offline for a time. Others have failed in almost laughable ways.
Gettr, another app established by former Trump advisor Jason Miller, has been a disaster from the moment it was established. After it was launched, the site was quickly hacked, had multiple users’ information stolen, and several emails were soon leaked. And it wasn’t long before Gettr found a new problem: pornography.
Trolls made multiple accounts on the platform and began spamming every hashtag they could find. Eventually, the site was overwhelmed with NSFW posts about the cartoon character, Sonic The Hedgehog. I am not kidding. The result was a large portion of the conspiracy-minded posts about Q-anon were flooded with cartoon-style smut. Needless to say, Gettr and Parler aren’t exactly the hits they wanted them to be.
It is from within this crazed context that Trump’s recent lawsuit emerges. His recent attempts to counteract his ban with alternative sites are humiliating failures, and his need to regain the power he once had remains perpetual within him. Trump went so far as to write a piece in the Wall Street Journal, saying that:
Our lawsuits argue that Big Tech companies are being used to impose illegal and unconstitutional government censorship. In 1996 Congress sought to promote the growth of the internet by extending liability protections to internet platforms, recognizing that they were exactly that—platforms, not publishers. Unlike publishers, companies such as Facebook and Twitter can’t be held legally liable for the content posted to their sites. Without this immunity, social media companies could not exist. Democrats in Congress are exploiting this leverage to coerce platforms into censoring their political opponents. In recent years, we have all watched Congress haul Big Tech CEOs before their committees and demand that they censor “false” stories and “disinformation”—labels determined by an army of partisan fact-checkers loyal to the Democrat Party.
The problem with this argument is that it is foolhardy in the extreme. Aside from the fact that private companies have never been recognized as state actors, as the Supreme Court ruled in Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, there are also issues with the right’s previous attempts to undermine social media’s terms of service.
In PragerU v. YouTube, PragerU, a right-wing YouTube channel, sued YouTube for age restricting its videos—something that every YouTuber has to endure. The case went before a panel and lost, resulting in appeal and yet another loss for the right’s suit. In the case, the appeals court ruled that:
… the Supreme Court held that “merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.
The fact of the matter is that private corporations are not state actors in the eyes of the Supreme Court—a court that Trump himself helped organize through his appointments. And as I noted in my most recent video, Trump and his allies know this as well.
Prager, Trump, and every other right-winger who continues down this path of litigation are aware that their argument is built on a legal non-starter. Yet, they continue on this path because they can fundraise off of it, gain ad revenue on their videos and swindle their audience out of their time and money.