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Judge dismisses Donald Trump’s Twitter ban lawsuit

Trump's lawsuit against Twitter has been dismissed by a federal judge in California, who determined that the former president's ban from the social media platform until 2021 appears to be lawful. Trump and a group of other banned users will have until May 27 to file an amended complaint, according to today's ruling.

However, while it leaves the door open for an appeal, the order is highly critical of the lawsuit's claims, implying that any amended version will face a difficult uphill fight. Most notably, the order denies that Twitter violated the First Amendment and that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is unconstitutional, both of which were asserted by Trump.

When it comes to plaintiffs, Judge James Donato observes in the first paragraph of his analysis that they "do not begin from a position of strength." The situation for Trump and his fellow exiles on Twitter does not get any better from there, unfortunately.

In the beginning, Trump filed the lawsuit in Florida, but it was later transferred to Twitter's home state of California, where it was joined by similar lawsuits against YouTube and Metacafe (then Facebook). With time passing, Trump realized that his initial attempt to have Twitter restore his account had failed and filed an amended complaint in order to strengthen his position.

Judge Donato, on the other hand, determined that Twitter was not acting in the capacity of a state actor when it banned Trump, a claim Trump made by pointing out that some lawmakers had urged Twitter to prohibit him from using its platform.

A "smorgasbord" of allegations citing various Democratic elected officials who demanded a ban are dismissed in the ruling, which claims that legislators are "perfectly free to express their opinions without being considered the official voice of 'the State.'" However, even strident congressional commentary "fits within the normal parameters of a congressional investigation, as opposed to threats of punitive state action," the report concludes.

Due to Trump and his co-plaintiffs' inability to demonstrate a causal connection between Section 230 and their ban, their Section 230 claim was dismissed. Their efforts to persuade the judge to apply a deceptive trade practices rule from Florida in a California court failed, and the order concludes that Twitter most likely did not violate the rule. It is stated explicitly in the terms of service that Twitter may suspend or terminate a user's account "at any time and for any reason," as noted by Judge Donato in his decision. "It also states that Twitter reserves the right to remove or refuse to distribute any content at their discretion. These provisions do not contain any misleading or deceptive language or information."

While attempting to enforce Florida's Stop Social Media Censorship Act, which is currently stalled in the courts, Trump was met with a crushing setback.

Trump will not be able to add new claims to an amended filing, and unless the judge's reasoning significantly changes, the final decision will be very similar to this one in many respects. The possibility exists that Twitter will restore Trump's account voluntarily, and given the company's upcoming acquisition by billionaire Elon Musk, this outcome appears to be plausible. This case, on the other hand, is the latest in a long line of legal defeats for those who sue social media platforms for denying them access to their services.

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