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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 voices support for Saturday's pro-Capitol riots rally

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Thursday expressed solidarity with people facing prosecution in connection to the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The statement was issued ahead of Saturday's rally to protest the treatment of Capitol rioters. Over 600 known federal defendants face charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Swing voters' split feelings about Afghanistan

An Afghanistan flag waves in front of the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 28. Photo: Liz Lynch/Getty Images

Some swing voters say they're deeply disappointed with the execution of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Yes, but: They don't believe former President Trump would have handled it better than President Biden, and the issue is far less important to them than getting the pandemic under control.

Sep 17, 2021 - World

Apple, Google delete Navalny app as Russians go to polls

Alexei Navalny's Smart Voting app is seen on a phone in Moscow. Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

Apple and Google have deleted jailed Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny's tactical voting app from their app stores, per Reuters.

Why it matters: The tech companies removed the opposition-led Smart Voting app on the same day Russians head to the polls to elect a new parliament amid the largest crackdown of Kremlin critics in years.