A California judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that former President Donald Trump filed against Twitter, the latest blow to Trump’s high-profile battles with major tech companies over their decisions to suspend his accounts in the fallout of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The lawsuit, which Trump initially filed last year in Florida along with suits targeting Google and Facebook, was viewed as part of a broader strategy to appeal to conservatives, who have long argued that social media companies unfairly censor their viewpoints. The judge’s dismissal comes after Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced his plans to buy Twitter, taking issue over content moderation decisions he views as limiting “free speech” — and raising speculation that Trump could return to the platform.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge James Donato rejected Trump’s argument that Twitter was acting as a “state actor” when it suspended his account in January 2021, calling it not plausible. Trump had claimed that Twitter was constrained by the First Amendment’s restrictions on government limitations of free speech because it had acted in cooperation with government officials.
The judge also dismissed Trump’s call for a declaratory judgment that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says internet platforms generally are not responsible for what their users post, is unconstitutional.
In addition to Trump, the lawsuit named several other plaintiffs who said Twitter suspended their accounts following tweets about vaccines and the 2020 election. Those cases also were dismissed.
Trump announced the lawsuit to fanfare during a July news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. At the time, legal experts predicted that the suit would have little success in court, telling The Washington Post then that the cases relied on arguments that had scant legal merit.
Yet they proved to be powerful political talking points as Trump and his allies sought raise money from people sympathetic to their claim of censorship. Trump’s team set up a web page for the lawsuit, which encouraged people to donate to the America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit set up by former Trump administration officials to advance his political agenda.
The lawsuit’s dismissal comes as accusations that large tech companies are censoring conservatives continue to be central to Republicans’ messaging before the midterm elections. Yet studies consistently find that conservative outlets find larger audiences on Facebook than liberal outlets do.
Trump has said that he will not rejoin Twitter, even if he is permitted to when Musk takes over the company. However, some of his own top advisers are unsure that he will be able to stay away from his preferred online megaphone. He owns a clone of the social network, Truth Social, which his advisers say he plans to use, though Truth Social’s launch was badly handled and interest in the site has declined since it was first announced.
Musk said in a tweet on Friday that he has had “no communication, directly or indirectly,” with Trump about his purchase of Twitter. He reiterated that Trump has publicly stated he will remain on Truth Social.
Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Twitter declined to comment.