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Trump war with YouTube stayed until Twitter fight ends

As he did with Twitter, the former president claims his indefinite suspension from YouTube violates his First Amendment rights.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — A federal judge on Wednesday stayed former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit demanding YouTube reinstate his social media account pending Trump's appeal of the dismissal of his case against Twitter.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White ordered the stay and denied YouTube’s motion to dismiss the case. He also denied Trump’s motion for a preliminary injunction against YouTube without prejudice.

Trump wants the judge to order YouTube to restore his account after being indefinitely suspended so that he can sell merchandise on the video platform. Facebook and Twitter also suspended his accounts following the Jan. 6, 2020, attack on the U.S. Capitol amid concerns that he might incite further violence. 

This combination of images shows logos for companies from left, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. (AP Photo/File)

Trump filed four class actions against the tech companies and their CEOs in July 2021 in a bid to challenge the suspensions. In his lawsuit against YouTube, he claims the ban stifles public debate and imperiled his donor platforms, dampening his ability to communicate his endorsements of candidates.

Trump's lawsuits, first filed in the Southern District of Florida, also ask federal judges to overturn protections granted to internet companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The motion claims that YouTube’s “censorship and prior restraint of [Trump’s] speech” violates the First Amendment and Florida’s Stop Social Media Censorship Act, which was blocked by a federal judge in 2021.

Trump claims members of Congress exerted “coercive pressure” on the tech companies to censor him. He claims YouTube “worked with the government” to violate his First Amendment rights. 

He also claims YouTube deceived users and violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by “unevenly applying its standards” for user conduct in regarding to suspending or banning users for spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.

In their motion to dismiss Trump’s demand for a preliminary injunction, YouTube argued Trump lacks standing to claim the company violated his First Amendment rights, partly because the company lays out community guidelines for what content cannot be published on the website. The platform also argued it would “face irreparable injury” if ordered to publish and promote Trump’s messages, and that this action would violate the company’s First Amendment right to exercise editorial control over speech on a privately run forum.

“Former President Trump and seven other plaintiffs are attempting to turn their disagreement with YouTube’s editorial choices into a federal lawsuit on behalf of a putative nationwide class,” YouTube said in its motion. “This effort fails as a matter of law. By seeking to treat the judgments of a private online service provider as state action, plaintiffs flip the First Amendment on its head.”

YouTube’s legal counsel also asked the court to consider the Northern District’s decision in Huber v. Biden, where Senior U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen dismissed with prejudice Colleen Huber’s claim that “the White House and Twitter engaged in joint action and conspired to suspend her Twitter account, in violation of her freedom of speech rights under the First Amendment.”  

Lawyers noted Chen held “statements about working together with the government to prevent the spread of misinformation do not equate to working in concert to violate constitutional rights,” and declined to find those actions unconstitutional.

By denying the request for a preliminary injunction, Judge White declines to accept Trump’s claim of  “irreparable” harm as a future political candidate and to the Republican Party in general. Instead, he says the case must wait for the outcome of Trump's appeal of U.S. District Judge James Donato's dismissal of his Twitter suit, which makes similar claims. Donato ruled Trump did not show Twitter was acting as a government censor when it banned him for violating its prohibition on tweets that glorify violence.

Trump’s attorneys Matthew Baldwin and Carlos Trujillo of Vargas Gonzalez Baldwin Delombard and lawyers and a spokesperson for YouTube did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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