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In latest legal setback, Florida judge rules Trump cant skirt Twitters terms just because he was president

A Florida federal judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trumps status as a former president does not exclude him from following Twitters terms of service, the latest setback in his quest to get back on the social media platform after being banned this year.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr. granted Twitter's motion to transfer the case from the Southern District of Florida to the Northern District of California, which is required by a clause in the company's user agreement that all Twitter users sign. The case stems from Twitter permanently suspending Trump shortly after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that led to five deaths and injuries to hundreds of people.

While Trump's attorneys have argued that his status as former president exempts him from Twitter's clause, and that it was in the public's interest for the case to stay in Florida, Scola was unconvinced. In his 13-page ruling, the Miami judge noted that Trump, who lives in Florida, "has not advanced any legal authority to support his contention."

"The Court finds that Trump's status as President of the United States does not exclude him from the requirements of the forum selection clause in Twitter's Terms of Service," wrote Scola, an appointee of President Barack Obama. "The Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy their heavy burden to show that this case should not be transferred."

The move followed a ruling from another Florida federal judge earlier this month who granted a similar request to move Trump's lawsuit against Google-owned YouTube to a California court. Trump, who has asked a court to mandate that Twitter restore his account, has also filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, arguing, with little substantiation, that social media giants are "silencing" him and other conservatives. Trump has also argued, without evidence, that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey "succumbed to the coercion efforts of Democratic lawmakers."

Taylor Bulowich, a spokesman for Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Neither Linda Cuadros nor a spokesperson for the American Conservative Union, who are listed as co-plaintiffs in Trump's lawsuit, immediately responded to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling comes as Trump is fighting social media companies in the courts over alleged censorship issues, while simultaneously attempting to launch his own social media platform to, as he wrote, "stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech." The former president announced last week he would be starting a new platform called Truth Social, even as pranksters were able to post a picture of a defecating pig to the "donaldjtrump" account on an unreleased test version of the site.

"We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced," Trump said. "This is unacceptable."

Twitter banned Trump after the Jan. 6 uprising, saying it had made the decision "due to the risk of further incitement of violence." The company noted two tweets in which the former president said that he would not be going to the inauguration and that his supporters would have "a GIANT VOICE long into the future."

Months after Trump was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, he filed class-action lawsuits against the companies in July. The lawsuits, which legal experts and business associations say have little chance of succeeding in court, allege the companies violated Trump's First Amendment rights by suspending his accounts. The First Amendment protects against censorship by the government, not by private companies.

"We're demanding an end to the shadowbanning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and canceling that you know so well," Trump said.

On Sept. 1, Twitter filed a motion in the Florida court to transfer the case to California, as required by the company's terms of service. As Scola mentioned in his ruling, Twitter's terms of service, which say that all disputes in federal court must be held in San Francisco, have been in effect since 2009 - the same year Trump started tweeting.

Trump asked earlier this month for a preliminary injunction that would restore his Twitter account while his lawsuit against the social media giant plays out.

Before Tuesday's ruling on the Twitter case, another Miami judge ruled that Trump's censorship lawsuit against YouTube would be headed to California, per the company's terms of service. Trump accused YouTube of violating his constitutional rights by terminating an account he started as a private citizen and maintained during his presidency.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, said in his Oct. 6 ruling that Trump and his attorneys had no legal authority in saying that a "former federal official is exempt from a forum-selection clause to which he agreed to in his individual capacity."

John Coale, one of Trump's attorneys, told Bloomberg News this month that the change in logistics in the YouTube case was a "pain in the butt," but that he believed the case "is ultimately going to be decided in the Supreme Court."

Scola echoed Moore's earlier ruling, saying the Trump team's argument that the case needed to stay in Florida, the former president's home state, for the public's interest fell flat.

"These arguments do not share a nexus with Florida and instead raise general national issues related to social media platforms," Scola wrote.

Published : October 28, 2021

By : The Washington Post