A federal judge in California dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Twitter on Friday, obfuscating at least one avenue the former president and prolific tweeter could have taken to get back to his platform of choice.
Trump’s argument that the social media company and its then-CEO Jack Dorsey violated his right to free speech did not convince Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California, for say it lightly.
“Plaintiffs’ primary claim is that Defendants ‘redacted[ed]”Plaintiffs’ Twitter accounts in violation of their right to free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Donato wrote. “Complainants are not starting from a position of strength.”
Throwing off the suit as is, Donato pointed out the obvious: Twitter is a private company and 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 denied the connection that Trump’s legal team tried to establish between the US government and Twitter, rejecting the claim that the company was somehow acting on behalf of the federal government because the Democratic lawmakers wanted Trump off the platform.
“The Amended Complaint merely offers a bag of allegations that certain Democratic members of Congress wanted Mr. Trump, and ‘the views he espoused’, banned from Twitter,” Donato wrote.
Despite the lawsuit, Trump claimed he would not return to Twitter even if given the chance. And with the company under the erratic leadership of misguided free speech absolutist Elon Musk, he might indeed have that opportunity. In the meantime, Trump continues to promote his own app, Truth Social, which currently ranks eleventh in the App Store’s social media rankings.
Trump and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit — organizations and individuals who were also kicked off Twitter — will get a chance to revise their argument, but Donato points out the bar is high because separating private industry and the public sphere is “a matter of great importance.”
“Plaintiffs’ only hope of asserting a First Amendment claim is to plausibly allege that Twitter was in fact operating as government,” Donato wrote. “It’s not an easy claim to make, for good reasons.”