House Republican members are pushing a plan to regulate social media companies, in part, by allowing users who have been censored to sue the Big Tech firms who “monopolies.”
The plan is meant to serve as a foundation for future legislation, If enacted, it may have significant implications for massive online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
“Big Tech is out to get conservatives,” the House Republican members of the committee wrote in a news release about the plan.
Former President Donald Trump has announced class-action lawsuits against tech giants Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube parent company Google, over their “unlawful” censorship of him and other conservatives, after the social media giants banned him from posting in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“We’re demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing, and canceling that you know so well,” Trump said during an appearance at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Wednesday morning.
“We will prove that this censorship is unlawful, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s completely un-American.”
The actions are being supported by the America First Policy Institute, headed by former Trump officials Linda McMahon and Brooke Rollins, who introduced Trump at the announcement. Axios first reported AFPI’s involvement.
Trump is permanently banned from Twitter and will not be eligible to return to Facebook for two more years.
The lawsuits filed against Google/YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, seek compensatory and punitive damages to the plaintiff and the class in an amount to be determined at trial; an injunction and order for the sites to immediately reinstate the plaintiffs’ accounts; an order for the sites to remove warning labels and classifications from posts and to desist from further warnings. amd a judgment declaring Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 unconstitutional.
None of the three tech companies had any immediate comment in response to Trump’s announcement.
Trump has been battling for years with the sites over free speech and censorship, even before his ban.
By using a class-action lawsuit, Trump is filing on behalf of a broad group of people that claim they have been censored because of political bias.
“We ask the court to impose punitive damages on these social media giants,” said Trump. “We’re going to hold Big Tech very accountable. This is the first of numerous other lawsuits.”
Trump railed about what he called censorship of posts by him and others because of the coronavirus pandemic, including his posts about hydroxychloroquine and other treatments for COVID-19.
“Liberty is under increased threats and attacks by a lot of different sides,” Trump said. “We are the majority side … social media has given extraordinary power to a group of Big Tech giants that are working with government, the mainstream media, and a large segment of a political party to suppress the views of the American people and they’ve been very successful at that.”
He further said that “thousands of people” want to join the lawsuit and called it the largest lawsuit of its kind, before introducing people who have complained about being banned from social media platforms.
Twitter and Facebook say the bans were enacted for safety reasons following the attack on the Capitol. In May, Facebook’s independent Oversight Board backed the company’s decision to suspend his account.
But even before Jan. 6, Trump took aim at Dorsey and Zuckerberg, along with Big Tech, signing an executive order meant to limit legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for the content users post on their platforms.
President Joe Biden revoked Trump’s order in May.
Trump hinted at the lawsuit during a recent appearance on Newsmax, when he said that he was going to do “something about Big Tech” because “something harsh has to take place when they can censor conservative voices.”
Last week, Trump’s team launched a new social media platform, named GETTR, and billed it as an alternative to Big Tech sites and says it’s dedicated to “fighting cancel culture, promoting common sense, defending free speech, challenging social media monopolies, and creating a true marketplace of ideas.
Trump’s former spokesman, Jason Miller, is leading the platform.
The app went live on the Google and Apple app stores in mid-June. It’s considered one of the highest-profile projects in conservative tech and social media platforms, and comes amid accusations that Big Tech tried to silence pro-Trump commentary, particularly after the major sites have kept the former president’s ban in place after the Jan. 6 incidents at the Capitol.
GETTR has already had some issues, however. The site was briefly hacked upon its launch, and Miller said the problem was “detected and sealed in a matter of minutes and all the intruder was able to accomplish was to change a few user names.”
However, TechCrunch reported Tuesday that hackers were able to use GETTR’s API (application programming interface) and scrape email addresses for more than 85,000 users. They were also able to get hold of usernames, names, and birthdates.
Until Wednesday, Trump did not have a presence on the new app, even with Miller running the site and other figures from Trump’s orbit, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Steve Bannon, having established profiles. It was not clear early in the day if he planned to announce that he will now have a platform on the site.
Trump’s blog page, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” was removed from his website in early June and “will not be returning,” Miller said.
Trump had used the page to share statements after social media sites like Twitter and Facebook banned him from their platforms earlier this year. The website still has a news page, however, where Trump’s statements can be found, and followers can still sign up for alerts.
By Sandy Fitzgerald