Former President Donald Trump announced a class-action lawsuit today against Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for his suspension from their platforms following the deadly pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Trump’s lawsuit is full of questionable (at best) legal reasoning, has little chance of success, and appears to contradict previous arguments he has made about his social media accounts. It is a frivolous suit that is, as Adi Robertson writes for The Verge, “based on an amalgamation of mostly untested or disregarded legal arguments.”
Nonetheless, mainstream print media outlets treated the lawsuit as a serious legal endeavor by the former president. (Most outlets also reported that Trump immediately began fundraising off of the suit, suggesting another potential motivation for filing it.)
Axios, which broke the news of this lawsuit prior to Trump’s announcement, never once mentioned that the suit is frivolous. In fact, the outlet appeared to praise Trump for following through with a lawsuit and noted that “actions targeting Big Tech platforms serve as ammunition for Trump's conservative base.”
The Wall Street Journal prominently featured the story on its home page, directly under coverage of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination. The article discussed Trump’s assertions and eventually quoted an attorney who called the lawsuit “irremediably frivolous” -- but not until the 11th paragraph, buried near the end of the piece.
The New York Times acknowledged the lawsuit may be a “publicity play,” but not until its 11th paragraph. The Times’ headline, however, did note that Trump was already fundraising off the case.
Politico extensively quoted Trump in its article but didn’t acknowledge the flimsy legal ground the suit rests on until the sixth paragraph, when it said that “a long line of court rulings has held that such suspensions do not violate any First Amendment right, despite Trump’s claim to the contrary.” After that, it provided yet another long quote from Trump’s press conference.
The Hill even hilariously wrote “Trump claims damages could be in TRILLIONS.”
Conservative media pundits on Twitter, of course, praised Trump’s frivolous lawsuit. Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson referred to Trump as “the central figure of the free speech movement in America.” Media Research Center President Brent Bozell said Trump is “doing more to fight Big Tech than most people in Washington.” Fox News’ Tomi Lahren said that Trump is “fighting for our rights.”
While it is not surprising to see conservative media disingenuously report on Trump’s lawsuit, it is quite another thing for mainstream news outlets to follow suit.