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Photo: Mandel Ngan via Getty

Former President Donald Trump, who has complained about censorship by social media giants, filed class-action lawsuits Wednesday against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in Trump's yearslong battle with Twitter and Facebook over free speech and censorship. Trump is completely banned from Twitter and is banned from Facebook for another two years.

Details: Trump announced at an 11am press conference Wednesday that he is the lead class representative in a lawsuit being filed with the Southern District of Florida.

  • The filing, Trump said, seeks immediate injunctive relief to allow the prompt restoration of his social media accounts. He also said he is asking the court to impose "punitive damages" on the three social media giants.
  • Trump's legal effort is supported by the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a nonprofit focused on perpetuating Trump's policies, through a new legal entity called the Constitutional Litigation Partnership.
  • AFPI's president and CEO Brooke Rollins and board chair Linda McMahon, both former Trump officials, accompanied him during the announcement.

Class action lawsuits would enable Trump to sue the tech CEOs on behalf of a broader group of people who he argues have been censored by biased policies.

  • Facebook and Twitter declined to comment.
  • To date, Trump and other conservative critics have not presented any substantial evidence that either platform is biased against conservatives in its policies or implementation of them.

The big picture: Data shows that Trump's megaphone has been significantly muzzled in light of bans from Big Tech platforms, particularly Twitter and Facebook.

  • The former president and his allies have repeatedly criticized the bans as censorship. The tech giants argue they were put in place for safety reasons following the Capitol siege in January.
  • Facebook's independent Oversight Board affirmed Facebook's decision to suspend Trump in May.
  • Even during his presidency, Trump tried to take aim at both CEOs and tech companies. In 2020, he signed an executive order that was meant to limit the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for the content users post on their platforms. President Biden revoked that executive order in May.

Between the lines: Trump has often sued people in the course of his career, but rarely actually followed through in terms of winning a judgment or even taking cases to trial.

What to watch: Lawsuits and actions targeting Big Tech platforms serve as ammunition for Trump's conservative base. Down-ballot Republican candidates have latched onto messages around censorship as part of their campaigns and messaging tactics.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add details from Trump's announcement.

Go deeper

Trump to fight release of tax returns to Congress

Former President Trump during a July rally in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

An attorney for former President Trump told the Wall Street Journal Monday he intends to fight a Department of Justice order to release his tax returns to the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee.

Driving the news: The DOJ said in a memo to the Treasury Department last Friday that the committee had a "legitimate legislative purpose" to access the returns. A judge has asked the parties to provide a time frame for written arguments by Wednesday, the WSJ notes.

China's homegrown techlash

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

With the Chinese government accelerating moves against its own tech industry, China is — for now — prioritizing Communist Party control of the domestic economy over aggressive international competition.

Why it matters: China and the U.S. are both playing a long game, with tech as the playing field, companies as the pieces and domination of the global economy as the stakes.

Aug 2, 2021 - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

The push for a "PBS for the internet"

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The concept of a new media ecosystem that's non-profit, publicly funded and tech-infused is drawing interest in policy circles as a way to shift the power dynamics in today's information wars.

Why it matters: Revamping the structure and role of public media could be part of the solution to shoring up local media, decentralizing the distribution of quality news, and constraining Big Tech platforms' amplification of harmful or false information.