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In a bold move against “Big Tech”, former US President Donald Trump is suing social media organizations that banned him earlier this year. Trump’s own class action lawsuit hopes to address the increasing impunity of these tech companies; There are several ways of reporting, all of which predict different outcomes, the most likely of these is tighter regulation for tech companies.
Part of the bigger problem is that the word “tech” is inherently misleading in the context of companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – all of which are featured in Trump’s lawsuit. While others wanted to understand the difference between technology and media, we have insisted that you can only be categorized as a “technology” company if your primary product is hardware or software; “Media” companies involve the distribution of content through a digital platform.
But companies that might otherwise be considered purely media-based have been blurring the lines for years, leading to a lack of understanding of how to categorize them – and how to enforce the laws that accompany that denomination.
The classification of companies like Facebook and Twitter as technology companies is therefore problematic in that the regulation often applied to media companies cannot be applied to them despite the clear need for regulatory coherence.
In any case, the lawsuit itself alleges that these companies formed a monolithic stance whose “status thus rises above that of a private company to that of a state actor”, which subjects the companies in question to legal scrutiny after the first change – a right, that Trump’s lawyers argue that it was hurt when the former president was banned from using these websites.
There are several lines of thought to this lawsuit, most of which follow expected party lines; One persistent actor, however, is Section 230, legislation that prevents social media companies from being held responsible for the content their users create, post, or share.
Right-wing news outlets focus on potential freedom of expression violations and the growing role of social media companies dictating real-world results, with Fox News quoting Mark Meckler (former Parler interim CEO) as saying the lawsuit could “break new ground”. Trump himself pointed to Twitter’s continued entertainment of violent foreign “dictators” in his absence, claiming to support the idea that conservatives would be censored on social media.
Trump is also quoted as calling social media the “de facto US government censorship arm” as companies like Facebook and Twitter enforce their policies against misinformation, largely at the behest of left-wing government officials.
This is in line with State Actor Theory, according to which social media companies have the same respect as government agencies in recognition of the power they wield.
The status of a social media company as a private company, Trump argues, does not protect it from liability in an ecosystem where these companies have as much influence as they do, and instead advocates the abolition of Section 230.
Conservative news outlets are largely optimistic about the success of the lawsuit, with sources like Meckler pointing out that this is “an evolving area of law” that could lead to crackdown on Section 230 – something that will change the way social media companies operate for the foreseeable future would.
Left-wing news outlets are focusing more on the shortcomings in the lawsuitbut claiming The Daily Beast that “constitutional law experts almost laughed at the legal arguments put forward in the lawsuits.”
“The argument here that Facebook should be considered a government actor is not at all convincing,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
Jaffer also points to inconsistencies in the motivation behind the lawsuit: “It is also difficult to reconcile the arguments in the lawsuit with the actions of President Trump in office. The lawsuit argues that lawmakers forced Facebook to censor speeches, but no government actor has used that kind of force more brazenly than Trump himself.
These media similarly point to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, which are working with the CDC to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 – something Trump’s legal team has cited as evidence that social media companies are running have worked with Democrats.
Left-wing sources acknowledge that the lawsuit could be harmful if the parameters surrounding Section 230 are removed or changed, but they view the lawsuit primarily as a fundraising attempt rather than a legitimate violation of the law.
“They know they are going to lose, and this is a fundraising and publicity stunt that may allow them to climb the appellate ladder on a Section 230 case,” said Ari Cohn, an attorney at TechFreedom.
Cohn also claimed that the argument about Facebook as a state actor was old news, and other sources stated that the lawsuit was most likely, more than anything, a distraction from other stories.
There are also some side notes relating to this lawsuit, with Daily Wire referring to the lawsuit as a “promotion” which is “dead” due to misinterpretation of Section 230 and the imprecise logic behind Facebook’s portrayal of “on arrival” . state actor “.
Similarly, centrist news org, The Hill, points out that “the case is frivolous and … almost certainly will be dismissed in court”. because private companies are not subject to the First Amendment, which turns the basis of the reasoning of the complaint upside down. “
Whether this lawsuit wins or not, the most reasonable outcome would be a closer look at how social media companies are classified, what role they play in public relations, and what laws affect them as they cross the border between technology and media occupy spread.
“Tech” companies have operated for far too long without proper regulation, and while the context here is divisive, the idea of holding these companies accountable to consistent legal expectations should not be.