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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

Updated Sep 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump sues New York Times and his niece over tax report

Former President Trump hosting a boxing match in Hollywood, Fla., on Sept. 11. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump filed a $100 million lawsuit against the New York Times and his niece Mary Trump on Tuesday over the news outlet's 2018 reporting on his tax records, the Daily Beast first reported.

Details: The suit, filed in New York's Dutchess County, alleges NYT journalists "engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records" and that they "convinced" Mary Trump to "smuggle records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to The Times."

Oversight Board calls for more Facebook transparency

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Facebook Oversight Board on Tuesday called on the social media giant to "commit to transparency" in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report last week that millions of high-profile users get special treatment by content moderators.

Why it matters: Although initially funded by Facebook, the Oversight Board operates independently as a kind of Supreme Court for the platform. The company has agreed to obey its rulings on specific content disputes, but the board's broader policy advice is strictly on a "recommendation" basis.

Sep 21, 2021 - Technology

Scoop: More boycotts coming for Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are discussing whether to organize another campaign against Facebook in light of an explosive investigative series from the Wall Street Journal, Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer tells Axios.

The intrigue: Sources tell Axios that another group, separate from the Stop Hate For Profit organization, is expected to launch its own ad boycott campaign this week.