Trump beats the drums of war. The former president reaffirms his polemic vocation and his strategy that the best defense is the offense. On June 26, he resumed the massive events that have driven his political career. Aware of the importance of drama and mystery in the political narrative, he flirts with the presidential candidacy for 2024, without guaranteeing it or ruling it out, while promising that he “will make a decision in the not so distant future…and people will be very happy.”
Now begins the next chapter of a story whose first lines promise to make it as intense and interesting as the one that took him to the White House in 2016. On July 7, Donald Trump officially announced that he will lead class-action lawsuits against Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as their respective CEOs: Mark Zuckerberg, Pichai Sundarararajan and Jack Dorsey, whom he accuses of exercising selective censorship against conservatives.
The lawsuits, filed on July 7 before a federal court based in Miami, will be followed up by the recently founded “America First Policy Institute“, a group that will surely occupy a leading position within the former president’s political alliance for the mid-term elections of 2022 and the presidential elections of 2024.
Trump’s lawsuit against the two major social networks has profound implications both technically and politically.
Technically, should it proceed to the trial stage, the lawsuit would force the courts to issue a clearer standard regarding the interpretation of the content management privileges that Section 230 grants to Internet companies and specifically to social networks.
Roughly speaking, such legislation allows Internet platforms to, as “good Samaritans” censor content that goes against the law, while retaining their status as public forums, and therefore immune from defamation suits for content posted on their pages.
Former President Trump and many analysts, on both sides of the political spectrum, have pointed out that social networks abuse this mechanism, as they are not censoring content impartially and in good faith, but do so to follow specific political guidelines and biases. This has been confirmed through the investigations carried out by Project Veritas, whose videos show the political intentions and strategies of senior officials of companies such as Facebook or Twitter.
Considering the high profile of the plaintiff and the expectation that their legal approach is expertly supported, it would be possible that the lawsuits could escalate even to the Supreme Court itself, resulting in a ruling whose criteria would have a potentially gigantic impact on the future of the Internet and especially social media.
That said, it is equally likely that the lawsuits will meet a fate similar to that experienced by the Trump team’s legal proceedings against the 2020 election, and perish deep in the procedural jungle of the American system. Frankly, I would bet on this second scenario.
However, even in that case, all is not lost for the former president, because, beyond the legal aspect, the lawsuit has a political dimension, and it is precisely in that area where Trump has the most to gain.
A political battle
Trump himself underlined the political dimension of the lawsuits by noting that social networks have become “the censorious arm of the United States government.” His lawsuits against Facebook, Google and Twitter send a very clear message to his follower base that Donald has not given up and will continue to fight tooth and nail against the groups that (according to his narrative) illegitimately took the Presidency of the republic from him.
The image of courage and perseverance is one of his main assets in the eyes of his supporters, and both the legal process and the public debate regarding the lawsuits will provide him with ample opportunities to reassert himself as a fighter and to remain relevant in the eyes of the political class, particularly on the Republican side.
This is especially important for the 2024 elections. Although the elections are more than 3 years away, the contenders for the Republican nomination are already beginning to cast their nets and position themselves publicly. With this move, Trump is capturing even more attention from the press and Republican supporters, to smother his potential rivals mediatically, similar to how he did before the 2016 election. It is precisely in this part of the plan that the former president’s rivals come into play.
During Donald Trump’s administration, most of the industrialized press developed an unhealthy and obsessive fixation on hating the president and criticizing absolutely everything he did. This “Trump Derangement Syndrome” was not only an emotional reaction that served the interests of the left-wing political mafias, it was also good business.
After the riots of January 6, the industrialized press has made a great effort to ignore what Trump is doing, so as not to give him political press. However, half a year away and with a deeply bored Biden, the lawsuits filed by Trump against the tech giants will probably be an irresistible temptation for a press that has an urgency for ratings.
On the other hand, by beating the drums of war against the 3 tech giants, Trump also runs the risk of encouraging a much more aggressive reaction from his enemies who will look under every rock to find any pretext to build a criminal case against the former president, hoping to discredit (or at least imprison) him.
For the time being, it is clear to anyone with a minimum of intellectual honesty that the legal approach behind the lawsuits filed by Donald Trump merits at least the careful review of a court, and therefore, the drums of war will not sound in vain.
As Axios points out, “Trump often sues (…) but rarely follows up on those lawsuits (….) enough to even get them to the trial stage.” Only time will tell whether the drums of war call for a political confrontation as momentous as the one that eventually led to the breakup of the great monopolies of the early 20th century, or whether its echo is diluted in the wind. One thing is guaranteed: the conflict is going to be interesting.