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Former President Donald Trump has sued Twitter, Facebook, and Google for blacklisting him from their platforms on the grounds that their censorship violates the First Amendment.
At first glance, that seems like a stretch. The First Amendment protects people from actions by the federal and state governments, not private actors. It begins with the phrase, “Congress shall make no law” and then sets out what Congress cannot do: declare an official religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, abridge the freedom of speech or press, or curtail the rights to peaceably assemble or petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Initially, those rules only applied to the federal government. But now the Fourteenth Amendment is understood as applying those rules to state governments also.
So most legal analysts’ initial reaction to a First Amendment suit against a private company is to simply dismiss it. They assume that the big tech platforms can regulate content as they see fit, including kicking Trump off their platforms or shadow-banning undesirable users because they are in the private sector. Harvard Law’s Noah Feldman recently described Trump’s lawsuits as “sure losers.”
But that might be too quick. There are a number of cases in which the Supreme Court has held that actions by private actors can violate constitutional provisions ordinarily thought only to apply to state actors.

In Norwood v. Harrison, the Supreme Court unanimously found that a Mississippi program that provided textbooks to private schools, even if the school engaged in discriminatory practices, was unconstitutional on the grounds that the state could not deputize private actors to carry out prohibited activities. The Supreme Court said that it is “axiomatic that a state may not induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.”
In Railway Emplooyeee’s Department v. Hanson, the Supreme Court found state action in an agreement between a union and a private employer requiring all employees to join the union. The reason: Congress had passed a law immunizing such agreements from liability under state law. In Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives Association, the Court held that drug tests for employees by a private company constituted state action because federal regulations made railroad companies that tested employees immune from liability.
In both cases, the government was requiring anything. But it was enough that the government encouraged the closed-shop agreements and drug testing by granting immunity.
If this rings a bell, it may be because, in Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Congress provided digital platforms with immunity to liability for content posted by their users. This is seen by critics as inviting censorship because it allows Facebook, Twitter, and the like to regulate the content on their platforms without incurring the liability that a publisher of a newspaper, for example, would incur.

Section 230 also has a so-called “Good Samaritan” provision that immunizes platforms from liability for “any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” In other w ords, it protects Twitter or Facebook from being sued if they take down content they do not like.

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Trump’s complaint against Twitter cites Norwood to argue that Section 320’s immunity means that it is a state actor when it censors content.
The complaint makes the further point that many left-wing Democrat lawmakers repeatedly urged social media platforms to kick Trump off. What is more, they often coupled these pleas with threats to strip the companies of their Section 320 immunity 0r impose new regulations if they did not comply.
“Look, let’s be honest, @realDonaldTrump’s Twitter account should be suspended,” Kamala Harris tweeted in September.
“But I do think that for the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it. And it is not out of the question that that could be removed,” Nancy Pelosi said in April 2019, according to the complaint.
The complaint cites over a dozen similar remarks from politicians and lawmakers.

The argument of the brief very closely follows that of Jed Rubenfeld, a professor at Yale Law School, and Vivek Ramaswamy in a Wall Street Journal op-ed from January.
“Google, Facebook and Twitter should be treated as state actors under existing legal doctrines,” they wrote. “Using a combination of statutory inducements and regulatory threats, Congress has co-opted Silicon Valley to do through the back door what government cannot directly accomplish under the Constitution.”
Trump will not be the first to attempt to hold Facebook and other technology companies liable under a state actor theory. Most of those were met with failure in the courts. The courts in those cases tended to rely on Manhattan Comm. Access Corp. v. Halleck for the proposition that a private entity can only be a state actor if it is performing a public function that is exclusively done by the government.

But that is not all that Halleck says. Exclusive public function is only one category in Halleck. The case cites two other categories: when the government compels a private company to take a particular action and when the government acts jointly with a private entity.
These could also be fruitful arguments for Trump to make given the arguments in the complaint that government actors coerced Twitter into kicking him off the platform by threatening to regulate or remove the Section 230 protections.

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Campaign

Biden snaps at protesters who chanted ‘stop line 3’

“No, no, no, no. Let ’em talk. That’s OK. Look, this is not a Trump rally. Let ’em holler. No one’s paying attention.”

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President Joe Biden didn’t seem all that bothered when his speech Friday night at a campaign rally in Virginia was interrupted. Biden was speaking in favor of Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Arlington when a group of people began yelling. Although what they were yelling isn’t quite clear from the recording, reporters on the ground said they were apparently shouting, “Stop Line 3!” referring to a controversial oil pipeline project in Minnesota.

Biden, heckled at a rally in Virginia: “Let ‘em talk… that’s okay. This is not a Trump rally. Let ‘em holler. Nobody’s paying attention to them.” pic.twitter.com/n2zeaCbY07— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) July 24, 2021

Immediately the crowd seemed to instinctively come to the president’s defense and tried to drown out the hecklers with boos of their own. And they also started chanting, “Let’s go, Joe!” Biden encouraged his supporters to calm down and not worry about the protesters too much. “That’s OK, that’s all right,” Biden said. “No, no, no, no. Let ’em talk. That’s OK. Look, this is not a Trump rally. Let ’em holler. No one’s paying attention.”

Clarifying the earlier interruption — according to print pool reporter @toddgillman, at least three people in the front were apparently shouting “Stop Line 3!” That’s a reference to an @Enbridge pipeline project.— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) July 24, 2021

Biden went back on the campaign trail for his first candidate-specific event to speak to nearly 3,000 people in support of McAuliffe, who was governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018 and now is running against Republican Glenn Youngkin to try to get his old job back. “You’re not gonna find anyone, I mean anyone, who knows how to get more done for Virginia than Terry,” Biden said. “Off-year election, the country’s looking. This is a big deal.”

Biden’s return to the campaign trail illustrates how the Virginia contest is being closely watched in political circles to figure out what message best resonates with voters after the 2020 presidential contest and before the 2022 midterms. “It’s an important test for the Biden administration. The margins are so small, and he needs to be able to use his clout to help candidates get across the finish line,” Adrienne Elrod, a political strategist who worked on Biden’s inaugural, tells the Associated Press. “His message is simple: that he is delivering on promises on vaccines, record job growth and infrastructure.”

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Biden didn’t just mention Trump when he was talking about the hecklers, he also made it a central part of his speech by linking McAuliffe’s opponent to the former president. “Terry and I share a lot in common. I ran against Donald Trump and so is Terry. And I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry,” Biden said. “I tell you what, the guy Terry is running against is an acolyte of Donald Trump—for real, I mean it’s just like, I don’t know where these guys come from.”

Biden: Terry and I share a lot in common. I ran against Donald Trump and so is Terry. And I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry… pic.twitter.com/hIPiDQCbQ2— Acyn (@Acyn) July 24, 2021

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2020 Election

Georgia county’s district Attorney struggles to investigate Trump amidst backlog of 12,000 cases

“We have a historic backlog of 12,000 cases,” she said.

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is determined to investigate and, potentially, prosecute Donald Trump for pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” enough votes to overturn the state’s election results.

Legal experts says that the case in Georgia might be the strongest investigation against the former president, who is also the subject of investigations in New York and Washington, DC.

But a spike in crimes in Atlanta and a backlog of cases to process could impede her office’s ability to fully investigate Trump, former associates say.

During a Fulton County Board of Commissioners meeting on July 14, Willis acknowledged that her office lacked the staff and resources to address these two issues.

“We have a historic backlog of 12,000 cases,” she said. “The manpower we have right now will not adequately suffice, nor will the COVID money with the restrictions that have been put on it.”

This could ultimately impede her ability to investigate Trump and could put her in a difficult position to decide where to allocate her resources, former associates of Willis’ added.

“The problem she has is that she’s in an elected position and the residents are getting tired of the crime,” Michael Moore, an Obama-era former US attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, said in an interview. “So are you going to dump all your resources into this [Trump] case that may turn into nothing? Or are you going to do your job and represent the people who have voted you in?

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China

“If I had my way, I would come down on China so hard” – Marjorie Greene

“I would kick out every Chinese in this country who is loyal”

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) wants Chinese residents in the U.S. deported because of China’s links to COVID-19.

If she were in charge, Greene told Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon on his “War Room” program Wednesday, “I would kick out every Chinese in this country who is loyal” to the communist party because “China tried to kill us, and did kill us, this past year” with COVID-19. “If I had my way, I would come down on China so hard.”

Greene subscribes to the QAnon conspiracy theory that China, where COVID-19 first emerged, deliberately created COVID-19 to kill Americans.

Marjorie Taylor Greene talks about what she would do to the CCP if she was in charge. pic.twitter.com/hiR635BVdy— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) July 21, 2021

But Greene is an outspoken critic of vaccination, which experts say is the best way to save lives as well as suppress and, hopefully, eradicate the pandemic.

“We are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky warned earlier this month.

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People who refuse to be vaccinated also serve as “incubators” for increasingly stronger variants of COVID-19 that threaten everyone, health experts warn.

Greene also told Bannon that to punish China she would crank up Trump’s tariffs on the country, believing, as the former president did, that China then would have to somehow pay money to the U.S. treasury.

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