BEDMINSTER – Donald Trump is ready to wage war on what he calls the “latest villains in the greatest story ever told; the American story.”
That would be Facebook, Google, Twitter and the people who run them.
Flanked this morning by about two dozen supporters on a hot, sunny day at his country club, Trump said he plans to sue the Big Tech companies for censoring him and many others. The former president has been banned or suspended from Twitter and Facebook for about six months now.
Trump called such actions “completely un-American.”
And in typical embellishment, he said the federal litigation is a “very big suit with great lawyers.”
Trump and others on the right have long complained about what they consider social media censorship. So Trump’s litigation is bound to be warmly received in those quarters.
But there’s an obvious question here – one that many people miss.
First Amendment protections limit what the government can do in regard to speech.
They say nothing about private companies like Facebook, Google etc.
In another life, I was in charge of letters to the editor for two different newspapers – the Morristown Daily Record and The Record. I chose – more or less unilaterally – what letters would appear in the paper. In other words, I picked the ones I wanted and discarded the others.
This was not censorship.
People had a constitutional right to write a letter to a newspaper.
But the newspaper had the right to decide if it would be published or not.
The same principle would seem to apply to social media.
People have the right to post or tweet whatever they want, but the owners of the company have the right to take it down. They do, after all, own the company.
From a legal standpoint, the motives of the Big Tech companies are irrelevant.
So, how does Trump’s lawsuit get around that?
His lawyers argue that social media companies work with the government and have become, in effect, its censorship “arm.” They say this manifests itself in the “censorship” of views that are at odds with government policy or thinking. And that, they assert, is discriminatory.
All that can be difficult to prove in court – even if a private company somehow does the government’s bidding, it’s still a private company.
Let’s insert an ironic footnote here.
If this government censoring via Facebook was going on, a lot of it apparently went on when the U.S. government was headed by one, Donald J. Trump.
Such subtleties or contradictions were not the point of today’s event.
Trump sees the suit as another attempt by him to challenge the sinister forces aligned against him. He mentioned the usual suspects – the elites, the progressives and the fake news media.
Anyone who has watched Trump for the last four-plus years knows he can never stay on script.
So he at times rambled far and wide.
He again ridiculed the Russia probe, complained that some Jan. 6 rioters were being treated too harshly by the legal system and then got around to crime itself.
Rising crime throughout the country has been front-page news for weeks.
Trump, nevertheless, contended that the major, liberal news outlets are not reporting it.
And he said many Democrats don’t even care.
“They actually hate the police,” Trump asserted.