Former President Donald Trump on Monday asked a Florida judge to issue a preliminary injunction in his case against YouTube that would compel the company to reinstate his access to the platform.
Trump’s lawyers said they plan to make similar requests in his suits against Facebook and Twitter in the coming weeks.
The request for a preliminary injunction against YouTube argues that a failure to issue one would result in irreparable harm to both Trump as a potential political candidate in the future and the Republican Party as a whole, court documents dated Monday show.
Notably, the injunction would allow Trump to continue selling merchandise on YouTube, potentially critical to political fundraising efforts.
Trump brought class-action lawsuits against the three Big Tech titans last month, seeking unspecified damages for alleged First Amendment violations that Trump said could total “trillions” of dollars.
Trump filed the suits in coordination with the America First Policy Institute, which was founded by former members of his administration and was granted nonprofit status as a public charity by the IRS in May.
The three suits, filed in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also ask federal judges to overturn the controversial immunity protections granted to internet companies in 1996 by declaring Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional.
Katie Sullivan, executive director of AFPI’s Constitutional Litigation Partnership, said YouTube and the other social media platforms have “inconsistently applied their terms and services and their community standards.”
“What they do is say, ‘Hey, look, we have this free and open community you should join where you can share political thought, updates on family, or even have the ability to make a living.’ But the defendants do not apply their rules evenly or consistently — they censor specific voices and thought so that other users only hear one side of a story,” Sullivan said in a phone interview with The Post.
“They encourage users to become reliant on them as one of their main vehicles of communication and in many cases livelihood and now defendants are choosing the winners and losers of society.”
Three different judges are currently presiding over the separate, but nearly identical, suits against the Big Tech companies. Judge K. Michael Moore is presiding over the suit against YouTube in the Southern District of Florida.
The lawsuit against the video-sharing platform, which also names the CEO of parent company Alphabet as a defendant, argues that banning Trump is a violation of the First Amendment because the company was coerced to do so by members of Congress, especially Democratic politicians.
The three suits also argue that by failing to live up to their own standards and unevenly applying their own rules, the social media companies are deceiving users and violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
“President Trump being taken down and the Taliban staying up on Twitter is kind of a perfect example,” Sullivan said, referencing the Islamic militant group’s use of Twitter in recent days as they quickly conquered Afghanistan.
“I mean that’s just low-hanging fruit right there,” she said.
Last week, Trump slammed Twitter for allowing the Taliban’s spokespeople to continue to use the social media platform to issue updates on the group’s takeover of Afghanistan — even as it stands by its decision to ban him from the site.
“It’s disgraceful when you think that you have killers and muggers and dictators and horrible — some horrible dictators and countries, and they’re all on but the president of the United States, who had hundreds of millions of people, by the way, he gets taken off,” Trump said Wednesday.
Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida and one of Trump’s defense lawyers in his impeachment trial, said social media behemoths like YouTube have been chipping away at Americans’ freedom of speech.
“For the last few years, Americans’ freedom of speech has been slowly eroding due to the actions of big tech companies who have been simultaneously giving the Taliban a platform to spread the truest forms of hate and evil that exist,” she told The Post.
“If granted, these preliminary injunctions will give President Trump expedited injunctive relief that will kickstart the restoration of all Americans’ freedom of speech and demand accountability from each platform.”
Trump’s suits also argue that the Big Tech companies are in violation of a Florida state law that was set to take effect earlier this year that would have allowed individuals to sue social media companies if they feel they have been “unfairly censored.”
But that law was blocked before it went into effect.
Sullivan emphasized that while the request for a preliminary injunction only applies to Trump due to the unique factors in the case, the class-action suits are meant to serve a much broader group of people who have been affected by content moderation on social media platforms.
The suits list nine co-plaintiffs in addition to Trump, including Dr. Colleen “Kelly” Victory of Colorado, an outspoken critic of coronavirus-related mask mandates whose video on risk mitigation for a Texas church went viral on Facebook before being deleted on grounds that it “violated community standards,” according to court papers.
YouTube’s actions against Trump began on Jan. 6 with the removal of a video about the Capitol attack, his suit says, and led to the indefinite suspension of his channel on Jan. 27 over what the company called “the ongoing potential for violence.”
Facebook and Twitter both suspended Trump’s accounts on Jan. 7, one day after his supporters stormed the US Capitol to disrupt the congressional certification of the Electoral College results.
Trump’s suit against Facebook notes that the moves came “within two (2) minutes of one another,” which court papers call “suspicious and worthy of the Court’s consideration.”
On Jan. 8, Twitter said the ban was permanent, on grounds that Trump’s tweets raised “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
In June, Facebook said its ban would last until at least 2023, depending on whether “the risk to public safety has receded.”