This relates to a story I shared the other day concerning the the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference:
The media has panned Donald Trump’s First Amendment lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube: “sure to fail,” “as stupid as you’d think,” “ridiculous.” Mr. Trump’s complaint omits important precedents, facts and claims for relief, but there’s a strong case to be made that social-media censorship violates the Constitution. If his lawyers do better in court than in their initial filing, Mr. Trump can win.
It’s true that the First Amendment ordinarily applies to the government rather than private companies. But the central claim in Mr. Trump’s class-action lawsuit—that the defendants should be treated as state actors and are bound by the First Amendment when they engage in selective political censorship—has precedent to back it up. Their censorship constitutes state action because the government granted them immunity from legal liability, threatened to punish them if they allow disfavored speech, and colluded with them in choosing targets for censorship.
The Supreme Court held in Norwood v. Harrison (1973) that the government “may not induce, encourage, or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.” As Jed Rubenfeld and I argued in these pages in January, that’s what Congress did by passing Section 230(c)(2) of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which permits tech companies to censor constitutionally protected speech and immunizes them from state liability if they do so…
Social-media companies are privately owned, but when they collude with officials to block disfavored content, they are serving as the government’s censorship bureau and must answer to the First Amendment.
Trump’s lawsuits needn’t be based solely on the implications of Section 230 if actual collusion between government and industry can be shown. The CDC’s direct participation in censoring social media posts about Covid-19 would be evidence of that type of collusion. So would Big Tech’s/MSM’s so-called “Summer Camp for Billionaires.”