Former president Donald Trump has no valid claim that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was suspended from Twitter, the company is telling a federal appeals court.
Trump's claim “turns the First Amendment on its head,” Twitter says in papers filed Wednesday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The social media platform adds that it's a private company, with its own First Amendment right to decide what material to publish.
“Twitter is a private party, not a state actor,” the company argues, writing that Trump's claims “implicate Twitter’s own First Amendment rights to exercise editorial control and judgment over content disseminated through its platform.”
Twitter, like YouTube and Facebook, suspended Trump's account two years ago, soon after his supporters rioted at the Capitol on January 6. Trump then sued Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, arguing that the companies violated the First Amendment by “censoring” him.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk lifted the ban last year, but the former president -- who has yet to resume tweeting -- nonetheless continues to press his claim that Twitter violated his rights.
U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California threw out Trump's lawsuit last May, ruling that the First Amendment prohibits the government -- but not private companies like Twitter -- from engaging in censorship. The lawsuits against YouTube and Facebook are on hold,
Trump recently urged the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to revive his case, arguing that Twitter was effectively acting at the direction of the government.
“Powerful Democratic legislators threatened to use their official authority to impose Draconian legal consequences against defendants and other social media companies if they did not censor disfavored speakers and speech,” Trump's lawyers contended in their appeal.
Trump's attorneys pointed to several examples of elected officials either calling for Trump to be banned from social media, or calling for changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- the law that protects platforms from liability over users' speech. For instance, Trump's lawyers point to a statement made by Vice President Kamala Harris in October of 2019 (when she was still a Senator), calling for Trump's Twitter account to be suspended, and to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California)'s warning that tech companies' legal protections could be in jeopardy, unless they acted with more “responsibility.”
On Wednesday, Twitter urged the appellate court to reject Trump's request to revive the case for several reasons, including that the claim is moot because his account was reinstated.
Twitter also argues the court should reject Trump's contention that the ban was the result of government pressure.
“Mere attempts by public officials to persuade private actors cannot amount to coercion,” Twitter writes, adding that Trump didn't allege that any officials threatened to sanction the company unless it suspended him.
“Individual legislators, however powerful, cannot single-handedly amend or repeal Section 230 or any other law,” the company adds.