Donald Trump files lawsuit in attempt to force Twitter to reinstate his account
Things have been a little quiet from Donald Trump since his presidency came to an end. The cessation of online rants was helped by Twitter slapping him with a permanent ban over concerns that his tweets were an incitement to violence.
Having attempted to launch his own social media platform as a replacement, Trump is now trying a new tactic. The former president has asked a federal judge in Florida to get Twitter to restore his @RealDonaldTrump account, claiming that he has been censored.
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The lawsuit was filed on Friday in the Southern District of Florida, and suggests that Twitter "exercises a degree of power and control over political discourse in this country that is immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate".
Trump has historically used his Twitter account to sow seeds of doubt about the validity of the electoral process, to share conspiracy theories, and to present as fact things that were demonstrably false. Over the course of more than a decade, he managed to amass a following of more than 88 million Twitter users.
In the lawsuit, Trump's lawyer says:
Pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff Donald J. Trump ("Plaintiff") respectfully moves for a preliminary injunction directing, inter alia, Defendant Twitter, Inc. ("Defendant" and "Twitter"), and all persons acting in concert with Defendant, to reinstate Plaintiff's access to Defendant's social media platform(s).
Coerced by members of the United States Congress, operating under an unconstitutional immunity granted by a permissive federal statute, and acting directly with federal officials, Defendant is censoring Plaintiff, a former President of the United States. On January 8, 2021, Defendant indefinitely banned Plaintiff from its platform, a major avenue of public discourse.
Defendant's censorship and prior restraint of Plaintiff’s speech violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and likewise violates Florida’s newly enacted Stop Social Media Censorship Act ("SSMCA").
The lawsuit claims that Twitter "censored" Trump's tweets by labelling some of them as being "misleading". Well aware that social media platforms play a major role in connecting with voters, it also says:
While Defendant faces no harm from the reinstatement of Plaintiff's access to its platform, Plaintiff faces irreparable injury; thus, the balance of hardships manifestly favors a preliminary injunction. "Unless preliminary relief is granted, it is likely that the censorship imposed by Facebook and Twitter will impact the 2022 elections." (Dershowitz Decl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff faces loss of his donor and merchandising platforms, and ability to communicate his views, content, and endorsements of local candidates. (Lewandowski Decl. ¶¶ 14, 15; Mahfouz Decl. ¶ 16.)
Defendant's First Amendment freedoms will not suffer if this Court orders it to reinstate Plaintiff's access to its platform. While Defendant undoubtedly has the First Amendment right to express its own opinion and carry messages it favors, the First Amendment does not protect Defendant when it functions as a censorship arm of federal lawmakers and officials.
Twitter has previously said that Trump will never be allowed to return to the platform, even if he is re-elected as president of the US. For now, however, the company has not commented on this lawsuit.