A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to overturn former President Donald Trump’s Twitter ban.
permanently suspended Trump’s account last January, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.” The suspension came two days after the attempted coup in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before Trump was set to leave the White House to make way for President Joe Biden.
Trump, the American Conservative Union and five individuals sued Twitter, alleging among other things that their First Amendment rights were violated.
“Twitter is a private company, and ‘the First Amendment applies only to governmental abridgements of speech, and not to alleged abridgements by private companies,’ ” wrote Judge James Donato in a 17-page ruling Friday, citing previous case law. “Overall, the amended complaint does not plausibly allege that Twitter acted as a government entity when it closed plaintiffs’ accounts.”
The judge for the U.S. District Court Northern District of California also rejected all of the plaintiffs’ other legal arguments, which included alleging that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is unconstitutional and gave Twitter legal cover for closing their accounts. (Section 230 actually gives internet companies immunity from liability for user-generated content.) Donato wrote that Trump and the other plaintiffs had lack of standing for their claim for a declaratory judgment that Section 230 is unconstitutional.
“This judge has no tolerance for bad litigation tactics,” said Eric Goldman, law professor and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. Goldman, who last year published a paper showing that 60 different lawsuits involving online account terminations and content removals have all failed, said “there was no reason to believe that Trump was going to beat the odds somehow.”
The lawsuit was first filed in Florida, where the former president lives, and also included a couple of now-dismissed claims under Florida law. It was transferred to California at San Francisco-based Twitter’s request.
The judge wrote that the plaintiffs have until May 27 to file an amended complaint, though he added “Plaintiffs are advised that further opportunities to amend are not likely to be granted.”
A Twitter spokesman said the company had no comment Friday. Trump’s office has not returned a request for comment.
Trump, who has a new social-media platform called Truth Social, indicated earlier this month that he was not interested in returning to Twitter even if Elon Musk’s bid for the company succeeds and the former president is given a chance to return.