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Judge dumps Trump bid to get back on Twitter

Twitter permanently banned the 45th president from its platform in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal court judge dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit seeking to get reinstated on Twitter.

U.S. District Court Judge James Donato found Twitter was within its rights as a private company to bar the former president from its platform. 

"Twitter is a private company, and the First Amendment applies only to governmental abridgements of speech, and not to alleged abridgements by private companies,” Donato wrote in the terse 17-page ruling

Donato said the only way plaintiffs could hope to prevail is to show the government compelled, either directly or indirectly, to enforce the bans in question. 

“Plaintiffs’ only hope of stating a First Amendment claim is to plausibly allege that Twitter was in effect operating as the government under the ‘state-action doctrine,’” he wrote. 

Twitter banned Trump in the aftermath of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying the president was using the platform to incite violence. 

"After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence," Twitter said at the time.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has since made a bid to buy Twitter for about $44 billion to address what he believes are free speech issues on the platform, but he has cited bans of other users and overtly partisan content moderation practices and not Trump’s ban as the primary impetus. 

There is speculation Musk would restore Trump’s account, but the former president, who has since launched a competing social media platform called Truth Social, has said he would not return even if the ban were lifted. 

The former president was a frequent user of Twitter and often credited his use of the platform for his rise in conservative politics, his eventual nomination by the Republican Party and his ascension to the Oval Office. 

“The fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.,” Trump said on CBS’ 60 Minutes in November 2016, “I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more money than I spent.”

Trump had 90 million followers when Twitter suspended him. 

The American Conservative Union and five other plaintiffs joined Trump's lawsuit seeking reinstatement on the influential social media platform. 

Some of the other plaintiffs in the case were suspended for posts related to Covid-19 vaccines or supporting Trump’s false claims about a stolen election, which Donato said is evidence the company took each case on its own merit, rather than at the prompting of state actors. 

Most close court watchers did not think Trump had much of a chance in the case as the First Amendment is widely understood to apply strictly to government action. 

The lawsuit also attempted to have Section 230, which legally immunizes publishers of “interactive computer service” from what others say, do and publish on their websites, declared unconstitutional. Donato also dismissed that claim.

The provision is widely viewed as one of the cornerstones of free speech principles as it applies to the internet. 

Donato gave Trump until May 27 to amend the complaint. 

 

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