Former President Donald Trump has taken his battle with three big tech companies to court and filed lawsuits that legal experts say are all but guaranteed to fail – even as they collect Republican voters, fundraisers and donors.
Trump announced on Wednesday that he is suing Facebook, Twitter and Google and their respective CEOs Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai in class actions.
Trump, who has threatened but not always followed through legal action in the past, made the announcement at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, along with two leaders from the America First Policy Institute, the pro-Trump nonprofit group that supports the lawsuits, known .
Shortly after the press conference closed, Trump’s political units began sending fundraisers touting the lawsuits in their appeals for money. One such SMS, written as if it came from Trump himself, contains a link to his joint fundraising committee Save America, which also raises money for other Republican political initiatives.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
Seth Little | AP
The lawsuits were revealed just over a month after Facebook decided to uphold Trump’s ban on using the platform until at least January 2023. Twitter, Trump’s social media portal of choice during his tenure, banned him permanently from invading the Capitol by a mob of his supporters after Jan 6.
The lawsuit against Pichai also mentions YouTube, the video-sharing website that Google bought in 2006. YouTube suspended Trump indefinitely in January.
“We don’t want to reach an agreement,” Trump told reporters in Bedminster when asked about the complaints. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we don’t want to come to an agreement,” he said.
The three related lawsuits filed in federal court in Florida allege the tech giants violated plaintiffs’ rights after the initial amendments.
The lawsuits want the court to order media companies to let Trump back on their platforms. They also want the court to declare that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that prevents tech companies from holding liable for what users post on their platforms, is unconstitutional.
As President, Trump railed against Section 230 and repeatedly called for it to be repealed. He even tied the issue to a pivotal round of economic reviews at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the passage of an annual defense spending bill.
Legal experts doubt Trump’s recent attack on big tech companies will be a success.
“I think the lawsuit has almost no chance of success,” Brian Fitzpatrick, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, told CNBC in a telephone interview.
The technology platforms are private, not state, and therefore plaintiffs’ allegations of constitutional violations do not hold up, Fitzpatrick said.
The professor added that he was not convinced by the argument in the lawsuits that the companies should be treated like government because their behavior, including allegedly coordinating with then-President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, “is”.[s] Measures to explain. “
“I think this is just a public relations lawsuit,” said Fitzpatrick, “and I’ll be honest with you, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended in sanctions against the lawyers who filed a frivolous lawsuit.”
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Representatives from Twitter and Google declined to comment on the legal action. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s spokeswoman Liz Harrington declined to speak ahead of the former president’s speech.
The attorney representing Trump in the lawsuits, Matthew Lee Baldwin of Vargas, Gonzalez, Baldwin, Delombard, didn’t immediately respond to questions from CNBC about how many lawsuits Trump wanted to file and whether or not those lawsuits were all still being filed in court.
Wall Street seemed largely unimpressed by the news as stocks of Facebook and Google parent Alphabet outperformed the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite.
Facebook was last seen up 0.1% from its session high north of 1%, while Alphabet added about 0.2%. Twitter was off its intraday lows but lost 0.5% in troubled trading. Movements in social media stocks contrasted with a 0.1% loss for the S&P 500 and a 0.3% decline for the Nasdaq.
The announcement comes the same day the Guardian newspaper reported that the upcoming book, “Honestly, we won this election” claims that Trump praised Adolf Hitler to his then chief of staff, John Kelly. Trump reportedly said, “Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.”
According to the book’s author, Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, Trump denied saying so, the Guardian said.
Harrington said in a statement to NBC News that the coverage “is completely wrong. President Trump never said that. It’s fake news, probably from a general who was incompetent and was fired. “
– CNBC’s Tom Franck contributed to this report.