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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

Jan. 6 select committee subpoenas former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark

Chair Bennie Thompson questions witnesses during the first hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, July 27. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Jan. 6 select committee issued a subpoena to Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who reportedly helped former President Donald Trump amplify false claims around the election.

Why it matters: The announcement comes on the heels of a report by the Senate Judiciary Committee that detailed the extent of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Hope King, author of Closer
Oct 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

LinkedIn announces new app to avoid China scrutiny

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

LinkedIn is finding ways to stay in China despite increased censorship pressure from the country's government to limit social posts and news sharing.

Why it matters: LinkedIn's new toehold solution protects its main brand while operating under similar amounts of local scrutiny. 

University of Michigan reaches $490M settlement in sex abuse case

Jon Vaughn, a former University of Michigan and NFL football player, speaks at a press conference in Ann Arbor, Mich., in June 2021. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The University of Michigan on Wednesday reached a $490 million settlement with over a thousand survivors who allege that they were sexually assaulted by a former physician in the school's athletic department.

Driving the news: "It's been a long and challenging journey and these survivors have refused to remain silent," attorney Parker Stinar said Wednesday.