On Friday, former President Trump asked a federal judge in Florida to restore his Twitter account. Trump was banned from Twitter after the January 6th incident at the U.S. Capitol. Trump is asking for a preliminary injunction allowing him back on the platform, arguing he is likely to succeed on the merits of the case when it is heard in full.
Trump is not the only one arguing in recent months the big social media platforms are not private companies but have become, at least in some instances, state actors. As extensions of the government, they are subject to free speech requirements under the First Amendment, the argument goes. [see The Daily Skirmish for 7/7/21].
Trump’s court filing cites previous cases establishing the state actor doctrine where private defendants act in concert or in agreement with government entities to deprive people of their constitutional rights. [pp. 12-13]. So it’s a valid theory. The question is whether or not Trump can make out a case on the facts that Twitter became a state actor by banning him from its platform. Trump argues the Biden administration and Democrat members of Congress encouraged and even coerced Twitter into banning him. We’ll see if Trump can prevail when his case is tried on the facts. [pp.8-9]
Meanwhile, other allegations of social media platforms colluding with government officials to deny free speech have surfaced in recent weeks.
Twitter blocked a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop after receiving information from U.S. intelligence officials, but the Federal Election Commission found Twitter blocked the story for commercial, not political, reasons. Senator Rand Paul said YouTube censored him because it was falling in line with Anthony Fauci’s approach to COVID, an approach Rand Paul has criticized repeatedly. A watchdog group found Facebook and the CDC closely coordinated to block information about COVID. Facebook is coordinating with the White House on this subject, too. The Surgeon General also wants Big Tech to block information about COVID he doesn’t want people to see. New York’s new Governor asked Facebook to censor information she didn’t like about the new abortion law in Texas. A consortium of tech companies is using lists produced by government intelligence agencies to police posts by white supremacists, militias, and other extremist groups.
Maybe suppressing information about COVID and white supremacy sounds like a good idea to you, but we’re not getting the straight story from government officials about either one. We need other information not filtered through government about both so that we, the sovereign people, can decide for ourselves what is true and what is not. Besides, Big Tech censorship doesn’t stop with these two subjects. Investigators found that Hunter Biden asked Facebook executives to take down accounts that presented unflattering information about him. Moreover, they found collusion between the Biden family and Facebook going back for more than a decade.
There is no reason unfavorable information about Hunter Biden should be suppressed, and no reason he should be in charge of what the public can and cannot see about him. I can’t think of anything worse than Hunter Biden being placed in charge of a Ministry of Truth about Hunter Biden. This is why social media companies that filter information for the government should be treated as state actors subject to the First Amendment, not purely private entities answerable to no one but themselves and insulated by law, unlike newspapers, from all legal liability for their editorial decisions. That’s too good a deal and the state actor theory might succeed in bringing it to an end.