Bloomberg Law
July 7, 2021, 6:48 PM

Trump’s Revenge Lawsuit Against Big Tech: Explained

Bernie Kohn
Bernie Kohn

Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday filed lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter, and Google over their decisions to suspend or ban him from using their platforms, as well as their CEOs personally.

He billed it as a step to defend his First Amendment rights and those of others who have been blocked or kicked off the platforms for violating their terms of service.

“We’re going to hold big tech very accountable,” Trump said during a press conference at his Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone.”

But the lawsuit has many hurdles to overcome, in what and where it is arguing. Here are a few of the key issues:

Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act shields internet companies from liability for user content. So how does Trump claim it doesn’t?

Trump is taking a different tack, trying to overturn Section 230. Though the First Amendment is aimed at limits on free speech imposed by government, Trump is trying to get around that by contending that the companies are government entitles rather than private actors. “Trump and his lawyers need to read the first line of the First Amendment,” Barbara McQuade, a law professor at the University of Michigan and a former U.s. Attorney, said on Twitter, predicting the lawsuit would be quickly thrown out.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Florida. Is Trump trying to take advantage of Florida’s new law prohibiting social platforms from suspending political candidates, since he’s teased about running for president again?

That law was blocked earlier this month by a federal judge who, ironically, turned Trump’s own argument against him, saying the law violates the companies’ First Amendment rights. As far as jurisdiction, the social platforms’ terms of use are fairly clear that disputes are to be heard in federal courts in California, not in South Florida. Courts have generally, though not always, upheld terms of service in such disputes. But Florida, Trump’s home state, is far friendlier territory for him than northern California.

Who did Trump get to file the lawsuit, given his documented history of pay disputes with lawyers representing him?

While the case was filed by local counsel in Florida, the big name listed on his team is John P. Coale, a class-action attorney who may be best known for negotiating the master legal settlement involving the major tobacco companies. Coale, 75, lives in Florida with his wife, former Fox News host Greta van Susteren, and, according to the legal directory Avvo, is not practicing or accepting new clients.

Why sue at all? If Trump doesn’t like how Facebook, Twitter and Google treat him, can’t he start his own social platform which, presumably, would let him say anything he wants?

Trump has hinted that he will do just that, though his one effort to establish a platform, the blog-like “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” was shut off after several months after generating few views, discussion threads or sharing.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Kohn in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at; Andrew Childers at