Twitter has asked a federal judge to dismiss the case filed against it by ex-President Donald Trump. The former president is suing Twitter for banning his account in January after using the social media platform to encourage rioting at the US Capitol.
The rioters had sought to stop the confirmation of current President Joe Biden’s victory in the election last year. Many of the partakers in the unrest have claimed they were responding to calls by the former president.
Twitter is arguing that Trump’s lawsuit puts its own right to free speech at risk, and not the president’s. The company claims its First Amendment rights are on the line in the suit as the ex-President was contesting its editorial decisions.
The social media platform also pointed out that Trump agreed to observe Twitter’s rules while signing up, but he decided to break them in his tweets before, during, and after the incident at the Capitol. His tweets had the potential to incite more violence by his supporters.
Twitter also argued the claim by Trump that his free speech was curtailed did not hold water because Twitter is a non-government entity that is not compelled to give a platform to the ex-President’s speech. According to the company, the government “cannot force the private operator of an online platform, such as Twitter, to disseminate speech with which the operator disagrees.”
The popular micro-blogging platform detailed how Trump had repeatedly violated its policies in the build-up to the Jan 6th incident. Twitter had reacted to Trump’s tweets by tagging them “misleading.” It suspended his account as the last resort when Trump would not stop using the platform to spread misinformation.
Twitter maintains that forcing it not to apply its own rules meant to protect its business “would upend bedrock principles of constitutional law.”
However, Trump argues that Twitter qualifies as a state actor based on a 1996 law that granted internet companies legal protection from liability from user-generated content. This protection requires Twitter to follow the First Amendment like the government is obligated to do.
Trump’s lawyer, John P Coale, said in an interview with Bloomberg, “If they didn’t have that immunity and they were doing what they do now, they’d have billions of dollars in judgments against them. Take away that immunity and they’d have 100,000 lawsuits a week.”
The federal government has stepped in to correct Trump’s interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The US Justice Department clarified that the 1996 law does not regulate ex-President Trump’s speech. “Instead, the statute establishes a content- and viewpoint-neutral rule prohibiting liability for certain conduct by providers of interactive computer services.”
Section 230 has become a bone of contention for people with conservative views that claim it enables media and tech companies to curtail right-wing views.
Ex-President Trump continues to claim the election was stolen from him. He has been publicly teasing another presidential run in 2024.
The Twitter ban was a big blow to Trump who always connects with his millions of followers with tweets at any time of the day. He used his account to make announcements and go after his political opponents.
Trump also faces bans from Meta (known previously as Facebook) and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, in addition to other platforms. He accuses all of them of conspiring to suppress conservatives on the internet. He is also working on launching a new social media platform, Truth Social, which will uphold the rights of American citizens to free speech. The social media company will have an arm for streaming right-wing videos and content. It will be headed by Rep Devin Nunes, who is not seeking re-election.