A digital rights group has filed a lawsuit against President Trump to stop regulating social media companies arguing that the White House is trying to suppress freedom of speech.
“The Order is plainly retaliatory: it attacks a private company, Twitter, for exercising its First Amendment right to comment on the President’s statements” according to the complaint of the Democracy and Technology Center, a non-profit organization in Washington DC.
The lawsuit seeks to persuade a Washington DC federal court to overturn Trump’s mandate unconstitutionally. The main argument of the complaint is that the White House misunderstands the first amendment, which prohibits the government from restricting the freedom of expression of citizens and private companies.
“The government cannot and should not force online intermediaries into moderating speech according to the President’s whims,” CDT President Alexandra Givens said in a statement. “Blocking this order is crucial for protecting freedom of speech and continuing important work to ensure the integrity of the 2020 election..”
Trump sees things differently. Last Thursday, he signed an executive order when Twitter reviewed two of his tweets that contained misleading information about the mail-in balloting. According to Trump, Twitter’s activities highlight how U.S. social media companies have allegedly tried to suppress conservative views.
“When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power,” the executive order states. “They no longer act as passive bulletin boards and need to be viewed and treated as a content provider.”
The president is now demanding that Twitter, Facebook, and Google act as completely neutral platforms. To force them to do so, Trump’s mandate is to undo a USA law that protects Internet businesses from getting sued they host user content found to be illegal or objectionable.
However, the CDT lawsuit alleges that Trump is trying to stifle free speech by intimidating social media companies into do his bidding. “The President has made clear that his goal is to use threats of retaliation and future regulation to intimidate intermediaries into changing how they moderate content, essentially ensuring that the dangers of voter suppression and disinformation will grow unchecked in an election year,” admits the alleged CDT.
There are some signs that Trump’s mandate is not being upheld in court. Last week, a federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit that tried to sue Facebook, Google, and Twitter for alleged criticism from conservative users. Reason: The First Amendment is to prevent the government from restricting freedom of expression, not private companies.