United States: a court prevents Donald Trump from returning to Twitter

DDonald Trump back on Twitter? It’s not for now. A Californian court on Friday ruled a complaint by the former head of state inadmissible: the former president wanted to be able to return to the social network from which he was banned for incitement to violence in January 2021. The Republican billionaire and his co-plaintiffs accuse Twitter of “censorship” in violation of their constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech.

But “the plaintiffs are not in a strong position,” said California judge James Donato, because “Twitter is a private company, and ‘the First Amendment only applies to government-imposed speech restrictions’ ( …)”. The platform’s rules “give contractual permission to Twitter to act as it wishes with any account or content, for any reason, and even for no reason,” it adds.

Donad Trump was banned from major networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) after his supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, which he is accused of having encouraged. The platforms had justified their decision by the risk of new incitements to violence. Before being ousted from Twitter, the former head of state had some 89 million subscribers there. He spoke to them every day, alternating between presidential announcements and attacks on his political enemies.

Takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk

Donald Trump also asked the court to declare unconstitutional Section 230, a 1996 law that protects internet hosts from lawsuits related to content published by third parties. But the magistrate replied that it did not hold unless the plaintiffs proved that they had suffered damage.

The move comes as Elon Musk reached an agreement with Twitter’s board of directors to buy the California-based company for $44 billion. The boss of Tesla wants to make it a bastion of freedom of expression, within the limits provided for by law but with a moderation of content much less restrictive than currently.

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He considers, like many conservatives, that Twitter is “censoring”. Donald Trump, however, recently told American media that he had no intention of returning to the platform even if Elon Musk invited him back. He launched his own social network in February, called “Truth Social”. The judge left the door open for an amended complaint based on his comments.

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