Monday 15th August 2022

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Trump V. Twitter Suit Needs More Legal Gravitas

July 19, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By DEACON MIKE MANNO

I will be the first to admit that I am no constitutional expert; but I think I know enough to evaluate a case and I have to come to the conclusion that former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Twitter lacks a certain amount of legal gravitas.
As you probably know by now, Mr. Trump has filed class action lawsuits against Twitter and the other major social media companies. The central target in his suit is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Twitter and other social media outlets from lawsuits over their content, or in some cases, the lack of content.
Section 230’s object was to allow these media outlets to block materials that were pornographic without penalty. It also protected the social media entities from being subject to legal action over posts that could be considered libel. Obviously this is only a quick thumbnail version of the statute, but you can see that it gave the (at the time budding) social media protection against lawsuits for posts made by users, and encouraged the companies to keep material harmful to children off their platforms.
The theory behind the protection was the belief that social media platforms were just that, platforms. In other words, they just provided the means for users to express their views; they were not publishers. Social media platforms were much like bookstores that provided a wide variety of books and information but did not author or edit the material, thus they should not be held to the same standard as, say, a newspaper that is responsible for its entire content.
Now there is little doubt in my mind that Section 230 has outlived its usefulness. And there is little doubt in my mind that Twitter and the other platforms have long ago abandoned the bookstore model for the publisher model. They censor, they block certain users — as they did to Mr. Trump — and one way or another they control content. Thus in my feeble legal mind once they took the position of an editor they should have lost their “bookstore” protection.
And Mr. Trump’s lawsuit rightfully attacks Section 230. But I did not see in the 24-page lawsuit against Twitter the claim that Twitter, by its own actions, has abandoned the protection given to a social media “platform” by becoming an editor of content, that it has become more like a newspaper than a bookstore.
Another argument I think Mr. Trump’s attorneys missed was served up to them only a few months ago by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: These digital platforms should be treated as common carriers who are required to serve all and who are not allowed to discriminate against customers who are acting lawfully.
In the Trump suit, the former president tried to present Twitter’s suppressions and suspensions of accounts as a violation of the First Amendment rights of free speech. That, of course, is going to be a hard matter to prove since private entities are not subject to free speech provisions, only the government is.
To get around that argument, Mr. Trump argues that: “Twitter has increasingly engaged in impermissible censorship resulting from threatened legislative action, a misguided reliance upon Section 230, and willful participation in joint activity with federal actors. Defendant Twitter’s status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor, and as such, (Twitter) is constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions it makes.”
In support of that, the lawsuit alleges that the social media giants bent to the pressure of certain “governmental” agents, including the Democratic Party and Michelle Obama, thus making Twitter a quasi-public entity thus governed by the First Amendment.
That’s a stretch. The suit does allege that Twitter accounts are operating as public forums, but could have taken that a lot further to make a better case. But Justice Thomas in his opinion in Biden v. Knight (in a case involving Mr. Trump) wrote: “If part of the problem is private, concentrated control over online content and platforms available to the public, then part of the solution may be found in doctrines that limit the right of a private company to exclude.”
(See also, “Is Twitter a Common Carrier?” The Wanderer, April 22, 2021).
Then Justice Thomas outlined the legal history of the doctrines of common carriers and public accommodations, where each type of entity is required to serve all comers. “This court long ago suggested that regulations like those placed on common carriers may be justified, even for industries not historically recognized as common carriers, when a business, by circumstances and its nature…rises from private to be of public concern.”
On balance the Trump lawsuit did point out that millions of Twitter users used the platform as a public forum and that the censoring of and the bans against some members have “ended balanced, direct public discussions between competing political views on national and local issues.” And added “[Mr. Trump’s] account was a digital town hall in which [he] communicated news and information to the public directly.”
He also pointed out rather amorphous character of Twitter’s “Terms of Service” which he described as “vague, broad, ill-defined, or not defined at all.”
In that regard Mr. Trump alleges: “Twitter’s Terms of Service (‘TOS’) is comprised of its Privacy Policy, the Twitter Rules and Policies, and all other incorporated policies of Twitter. The Twitter TOS, User Agreement, and Privacy Policies span seventy-six (76) pages. In addition, Twitter’s Rules and Policies contains sixty-five (65) hyperlinks to topics incorporated into the User Agreement. Understanding the confusing TOS requires a continuous cross-reference to other sections and previously defined terms. Twitter further reserves the right to change its TOS from time to time and states that it ‘will try to notify’ Users of any changes in its TOS. By using Twitter after it has changed its TOS, even without notification, a User is bound by those terms.”
He also stated, which he should hammer home because it relates to Justice Thomas’ opinion, “Twitter’s platform has been the catalyst for social movements across the globe, allowing Users to connect and collectively organize. In the world of American politics, Twitter is used by elected officials to make policy announcements, for those with political aspirations to announce they are running for office, and by political supporters to express their support or disapproval of politicians and major political figures, including President Trump….
“Likewise, with Plaintiff now removed from Twitter and other social media platforms, it has ended balanced, direct public discussions between competing political views on national and local issues.”
The suit is styled as a class action which means the lead plaintiffs, Mr. Trump and the American Conservative Union, would represent all Twitter users so impacted, unless they opt-out. One of the first steps in the lawsuit would be for the court to certify it as a class action. It lists two counts, the first being the First Amendment violation, and the second is an application for a declaratory judgment that Section 230 is unconstitutional.
It also asks for a jury trial and was filed in the federal court for the Southern District of Florida.
I hope the legal arguments at trial and in brief are more developed than contained in the initial complaint and I hope the lawyers for Mr. Trump tone down some of their conclusory accusations about the former president’s political opponents and stick to the facts and follow the path that Justice Thomas laid out a little over two months ago. In my opinion that would be the surest path to victory.
In any event, I hope he wins. This is too big of an issue to allow it to be tied around one man’s ego.
(You can reach Mike at: DeaconMike@q.com and listen to him every Thursday morning at 10 (CT) on Faith On Trial at IowaCatholicRadio.com.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Catechism

This Past Week in The Wanderer . . .

">

Are We Blundering into a Military Conflict with China? The Left Wants to Abolish Everything . . . The House Just Voted to Abolish and Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act!

Today . . .

Toyota Sponsors Lesson on ‘First Steps’ of Drag Artistry for Children

Toyota sponsored an event for “LGBTQ+ Youth” that featured a performance from a drag performer and a workshop on “the first steps of becoming a fabulous drag performer.” The event, called “Models of Pride,” was hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and was intended for those 24 years and younger. No minimum age was listed on the website. The Los Angeles LGBT Center described it as “the world’s largest free conference for LGBTQ+ youth…Continue Reading

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb Signs Abortion Ban to Protect Unborn Babies

The Indiana legislature has become the first in the nation to pass an abortion ban after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. The measure went to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who signed the bill into law almost immediately on Friday night. Earlier today, the Indiana state House approved a bill to ban most abortions and tonight the state Senate voted to confirm the changes to the initial bill 28-19. With Holcomb’s signature, the law will go…Continue Reading

Southern Maryland parish forbidden to offer traditional Latin Mass after investing in quarter million dollar renovation and decoration for the purpose

Nightmare and heartbreak. Parishioners of Saint Francis de Sales in Benedict, Maryland, devoted to the Church’s traditional worship, installed a new pine floor, painted altars and gradines, hung chandeliers and lamps, and painted a monumental mural. And more. After an extensive professional renovation and painting of the church’s entire 100-year-old plaster interior walls and ceiling. 

Bishop urges Catholic educators to see importance of the Eucharist

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Addressing Catholic educators at an annual national conference, Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, urged them to make sure their work was always rooted in the importance of the Eucharist. The bishop, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, said schoolteachers should help their students more deeply appreciate the sacrament amid the current National Eucharistic Revival.

” A Misunderstanding” ?BISHOPS WILL ALLOW LESBIAN TO FOSTER A CHILD

From The Washington Post:  An unmarried lesbian will be allowed to foster a child after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) let a lawsuit alleging discrimination go unchallenged, suggesting single LGBTQ adults may be able to foster through Catholic organizations while same-sex couples generally continue to be banned.

“The Viruses Among Us”

By BARBARA SIMPSON Have you grown tired of it yet? The news — radio, TV, print, Internet, and whatever else there might be — has been filled lately with information about and warnings against the monkeypox virus.To read what is being reported, you would think that monkeypox is the only virus that humans have to…Continue Reading

Who Won The Taiwan War Games?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied White House signals that she not stop in Taiwan on her valedictory tour of Asian capitals, she ignited the worst diplomatic U.S.-China row in decades.And how did last week’s collision turn out for the United States?Writes The New York Times:Speaker Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan began…Continue Reading

At Napa Institute . . . Catholics Respond With Prayer And Song To Disruptive Protesters

By ZELDA CALDWELL WASHINGTON, D.C. — When protesters tried to disrupt a conference of Catholics leaders held over a weekend in Napa, Calif., they soon gave up when their chants were drowned out by 800 people singing Salve Regina, a hymn to the Virgin Mary.The July 30 incident, which later became a viral sensation on…Continue Reading

Arlington Bishop Curtails Traditional Latin Masses

By SHANNON MULLEN WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNA) — Thirteen parishes in the Diocese of Arlington, Va., must stop offering Traditional Latin Masses come September 8 under new rules issued Friday, July 29 by Bishop Michael J. Burbidge to conform with Pope Francis’ liturgical directives.Under the rules, eight other parishes may continue to offer Masses in what…Continue Reading

Communist China Deserves To Be Disrespected

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY The American people last year bought $75 billion worth of cellphones manufactured in Communist China and $59 billion worth of computers.We also bought more than $39 billion in Chinese-made toys and games, $24 billion in clothing and textiles and $19 billion in household appliances.Over the course of the year, people in…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. The Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium (n. 36) says that Latin is to be preserved in the Roman Rite, and it goes on to say that the people should be taught to sing or say in Latin the parts of the Mass pertaining to them. So, is there anything wrong with softly saying those parts of the Mass in…Continue Reading

The Freedom To Be Catholic

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK News of my parish’s imminent demise in the wake of the death-dealing Traditionis custodes has spread through the Internet and at least one Catholic video news source of the independent sort. Many of the so-called “official” sources like to pretend we don’t exist.One news outlet used a video of mine about a transgender children’s story…Continue Reading

You Can’t Take It With You… But You Can Send It On Ahead

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this essay on July 30 and it is reprinted here with permission. Because of the essay’s length, we are presenting it in two parts. The second part will appear in next week’s issue.) + + Five teachings on wealth from the Gospel of the 18th Sunday of the…Continue Reading

Hearts On Fire

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twentieth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Jer. 38:4-6, 8-10Heb. 12:1-4Luke 12:49-53 In the Gospel reading today, our Lord tells us He came to set the Earth on fire. This can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but I think the primary meaning can only be the fire of love. Since He is love…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: This final article on Apologetics comes from the book Catholicism & Reason. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. You can send them either to the postal mailing address or to the email address below, and we will interrupt this series…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Michael, Slayer Of Dragons

By DEB PIROCH Where there is evil, there is the Devil, and where there is good, there is God. It is high time for the world to make this connection in an era when the family unit is rapidly dying, leading to all sorts of destruction. Some children don’t even know their parents, angry teens engage in gang violence, and…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Anne, Mother Of Mary

By DEB PIROCH Our Baba, or my Great-Grandmother Anna, was an immigrant to this country from Slovakia. I was blessed to know her when I was very young, elementary school age, and she about 90. She and her husband Joseph had been married over 70 years. She was fragile and was reverting to speaking Slovak again, but always had a…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)