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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Legal experts and First Amendment scholars say former President Donald Trump's class-action lawsuits announced Wednesday against Facebook, Twitter, Google, and their CEOs are unlikely to go far.

The big picture: That, according to some of these experts, suggests Trump's chief aim is to fire up his supporters and fundraise off of their anger over what they see as censorship by Big Tech.

"This is not a lawsuit. It’s a fundraising grift," said Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, a progressive advocacy group that often targets Big Tech.

  • "There is no chance Trump's lawsuits will do any better than the dozens that have preceded it, and Trump and his lawyers surely know that," said Eric Goldman, associate dean and professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.
  • "Which raises the obvious question: if Trump doesn't care if he wins in court, why did he bring the lawsuits at all?"

The Trump campaign did immediately start reaching out to supporters for fundraising after the former president revealed the lawsuits in a press conference Wednesday morning.

  • Trump’s joint fundraising committee sent out a text saying, “Pres Trump: I am SUING Facebook & Twitter for UNCONSTITUTIONAL CENSORSHIP,” adding “5X-IMPACT on all gifts!"

Details: The central argument made by the plaintiff is that social media platforms are "state actors," and thus should be bound by the First Amendment's free speech protections. First Amendment experts quickly dismissed the claim as destined to fail.

  • "The First Amendment simply protects citizens from government censorship," said Syracuse University associate professor Roy Gutterman. "Social media platforms exercise great power, but they are not a branch of government."

"In what constitutional universe can it be the case that Trump wasn't a state actor when he blocked critics from his social media accounts but the social media companies were state actors when they blocked him?," tweeted Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

  • The Knight First Amendment Institute in 2017 filed a lawsuit on behalf of several people who were blocked by Trump on Twitter. A lower court sided with the plaintiff and argued that that Trump's Twitter account constituted" as a “public forum” under the First Amendment, so he couldn't block people.

Trump's suits also suggest that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that gives tech platforms immunity for material third-party users post or say on their sites, is unconstitutional. Experts say the reference to Section 230 is irrelevant to the case.

  • "Section 230 can never be a defense to Trump's allegations of First Amendment violations,"said Goldman. "Section 230 is a statute, which cannot modify the Constitution (amending the Constitution requires a more elaborate set of procedures; Congress can't do it alone)."
  • "So the defendants in Trump's cases will not assert Section 230 defenses. They will instead argue that they are not state actors  The courts will agree that the services aren't state actors. This is not a close call."

The big picture: As Axios has previously noted, the former president has filed many lawsuits throughout his career, but he has rarely taken cases all the way to court, and hasn't won many of the cases that he has.

  • In fact, some of his lawsuits have actually led to historic legal precedents set by courts that create stronger First Amendment protections long-term.

The bottom line: "This is not the first time social media companies have been faced with these arguments, and in the past, they have won,” said Gutterman.

Go deeper

Senate GOP pushes DOJ to roll back Trump oversight rule

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Republicans want the Justice Department to roll back Trump-era restrictions on congressional oversight criticized at the time as an attempt to insulate the Trump administration from Democratic investigators, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: While some Republicans spoke out against the DOJ guidance at the time, it was mostly Democrats who attacked it as a constitutionally dubious effort to scuttle congressional oversight. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and the GOP is making similar arguments with Biden in the White House.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

1 hour ago - Health

Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.