- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A lawsuit alleging Facebook and Twitter willfully suppressed politically conservative content to hurt President Trump was flatly rejected Wednesday by a federal appeals court in D.C.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit, which had been filed against the companies in 2018 by Freedom Watch, a conservative group led by lawyer and activist Larry Klayman.

Along with Laura Loomer, a right-wing provocateur banned from both Facebook and Twitter who later joined the lawsuit, Freedom Watch alleged that the companies violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech by suppressing their content on their respective social media services, “in order to take down President Donald Trump and his administration with the intent and purpose to have installed leftist government in the nation’s capital and the 50 states”

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden dismissed the suit in March 2019, and a three-judge appellate panel unanimously upheld that ruling in the latest decision handed down Wednesday. 

“Freedom Watch’s First Amendment claim fails because it does not adequately allege that the Platforms can violate the First Amendment,” the judges found, noting that the Constitution generally only prohibits “governmental abridgment of speech.”

“Freedom Watch contends that, because the Platforms provide an important forum for speech, they are engaged in state action,” the judges continued. Nonetheless, “Freedom Watch fails to point to additional facts indicating that these Platforms are engaged in state action and thus fails to state a viable First Amendment claim,” they added.

The lawsuit has also accused the tech companies, along with Apple and Google, of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act by allegedly conspiring to have intentionally and willfully suppressed their conservative content and in turn costing them significant revenue. The appeals court affirmed the dismissal of those claims as well.

Ms. Loomer, who was banned from Facebook and Twitter after making remarks widely considered to be anti-Muslim, said in a statement she was prepared to appeal the ruling further.

She also claimed it was no coincidence that the latest court ruling was announced within hours of Mr. Trump threatening to take action and social media companies including Twitter.

“Today’s decision is clearly politically motivated, given the fact the DC Circuit’s ruling comes the same day President Trump said his Justice Department would take serious action against these same big tech giants I have sued for censoring conservatives. There’s no such thing as a coincidence,” Ms. Loomer said in a statement. “We are prepared to take this all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Trump had recently begun to rail against Twitter after the company decided to apply fact-check warning labels to his posts on the platform about mail-in voting.

“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen,” Mr. Trump reacted on Twitter afterward.

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” Mr. Trump added Wednesday.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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