Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook and Twitter being sued by former US President Donald Trump - why is Trump taking on Big Tech?

Donald Trump announced that he was planning to sue social media and Big Tech giants Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as their chief executives, over their social media moderation and content policies which saw his social media accounts banned last year.

Former US President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday July 7 that he would be filing lawsuits against the biggest names in tech and social media, naming Google’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and their CEOs in several sweeping class action lawsuits against the firms.

Mr Trump received a two year ban from Facebook following the Capitol Riot which took place on January 6 2021.

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He was banned from Facebook on January 7, with Facebook confirming in April that the ban would remain in place for two years until January 7 2023.

In the wake of the Capitol Riot, Twitter likewise imposed a full ban on the former US president’s account.

The site said that Mr Trump’s tweets on January 8 this year went against their ‘Glorification of Violence’ content policy, following previous attempts of the platform to label the former President’s tweets declaring he had won the US Presidential Election 2020 and alleging voter fraud with ‘Stop the Steal’ as disinformation and misleading in November last year.

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"We are going to hold Big Tech very accountable," said Mr Trump in his New Jersey press conference on Wednesday.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook and Twitter being sued by former US President Donald Trump - why is Trump suing Big Tech? (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook and Twitter being sued by former US President Donald Trump - why is Trump suing Big Tech? (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook and Twitter being sued by former US President Donald Trump - why is Trump suing Big Tech? (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

The move has been panned as the latest in a long line of inadequate attempts by Mr Trump to try and issue legal challenges against those he believes cost him a second term in office and have denied him the right to free speech.

Here’s what is happening.

Why is Trump suing Big Tech?

Following his ban from Twitter and Facebook, Mr Trump has claimed that he was censored by the social media companies – with ‘censorship’ being one of the main complaints included in his lawsuits against the tech companies and their chief executives.

Discussing the litigation in his press conference, he said they were also "a very beautiful development for our freedom of speech" which would bring about “an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing, and cancelling that you know so well."

In his lawsuit against Facebook, the former president declares that the social media behemoth has a status “which rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor” and, as such, “is constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions it makes regarding its Users.”

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The suit against Facebook adds that it has “increasingly engaged in impermissible censorship resulting from threatened legislative action, a misguided reliance upon Section 230 of the Communications Act and willful participation in joint activity with federal actors.”

In filing class action lawsuits, Mr Trump is joined in the filings by other parties and has urged others who have been banned from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to join him in his campaign to get back on social media.

Mr Trump has also created a fundraiser in an effort to bolster his efforts, following his legal team’s costly defeats in courts across the US after his 2021 Presidential Election loss.

Who is Trump suing?

Filed in a US federal court in Florida, Mr Trump’s lawsuits have targeted YouTube (owned by Google), Twitter and Facebook, as well as the companies’ CEOs Sundar Pichai, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg.

Rather than targeting YouTube’s own CEO Susan Wojcicki in his lawsuit, Mr Trump and his legal team have gone after the video streaming platform’s parent company Google and CEO Sundar Pichai.

This is because when Donald Trump’s YouTube account was first suspended following the violence at the heart of the US Government in early January, Google made the suspension into an indefinite ban – with YouTube stating that Mr Trump’s inability to post new videos to the platform would only be lifted when the risk of violence or inciting it diminishes.

Mr Trump’s lawsuits come as Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google remain under scrutiny from governments and regulators worldwide for their huge market power and dominance in the tech landscape.

Will the lawsuits succeed?

Pundits say the lawsuits are flawed and incoherent, with Trump equating the tech and social media companies to the US Government in stating that it must abide by the same rules as governments on constitutional matters such as freedom of speech and expression secured by the First Amendment.

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This position fails to take into account Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act, often cited as the law maintaining an open and free internet, which by underpins social media moderation policies and practices of removing content which violates their own standards.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), an International tech trade association which counts Facebook, Twitter and Google among its members, called the lawsuits “frivolous class action litigation”.

President of the CCIA Matt Schruers said in a statement: “Digital services have a right to enforce their terms of service.

"Frivolous class action litigation will not change the fact that users — even U.S. Presidents — have to abide by the rules they agreed to.”

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