Trump’s lawsuit against social media is meaningless theater

Posted July 8, 2021, 2:25 AM

This morning, former President Donald Trump announced his intent to sue the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter for their companies’ decisions to deplatform him, claiming this infringes on his First Amendment right. His intent to sue also demands that Section 230 be declared unconstitutional.

Fight for the Future released the following statement, which can be attributed to Evan Greer, Director (she/her pronouns).

This is not a lawsuit. It’s a fundraising grift. While it’s silly to pretend that the moderation decisions of Big Tech don’t have a significant impact on free expression, the First Amendment enables private platforms to make exactly the kind of moderation decisions they wish to make as non-government entities. From a legal perspective, this lawsuit is likely to go nowhere. Moreover, its disingenuous attack on Section 230 reveals a laughable misunderstanding. Without 230, platforms would likely have removed controversial figures like Trump long ago.

Trump’s legal showboating will fan the flames of unhelpful back and forth over whether platforms should or shouldn’t deplatform a specific account. His bogus claims only create confusion and downplay legitimate concerns about how haphazard or overzealous content moderation leads to removal of content, often disproportionately impacting marginalized communities.

Tech companies make content moderation decisions out of self-preservation, not principle — with the result being that people with more power have outsized influence over moderation decisions. While the former president’s ban from social media may have removed the man himself, it hasn’t changed the social media dynamics that helped him get there in the first place. Banning data harvesting, micro targeting, and non-transparent algorithmic amplification would do way more to combat the online spread of white supremacy, disinformation, and to restore democratic norms on our online spaces, than banning any individual account or set of accounts.