Former President Donald J. Trump announced on Wednesday plans to sue three tech giants — Facebook, Twitter and Google — and the firms’ chief executives after the platforms have taken various steps to ban him or block him from posting.
Mr. Trump, speaking from his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, announced he will serve as the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit, arguing he has been censored wrongfully by the tech companies. Speaking about “freedom of speech” and the First Amendment — which applies to the government, not private-sector companies — Mr. Trump called his lawsuit a “very beautiful development.”
His political operation immediately began fund-raising off it.
At the event and in court documents, his legal team argued the tech firms, and Facebook in particular, amount to a state actor and thus the First Amendment applies to them.
Social media companies are allowed, under current law, to moderate their platforms and remove postings that violate their standards. They are protected by a provision, known as Section 230, that exempts internet firms from liability for what is posted on their networks and also allows them to remove postings that violate their standards.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare Section 230, which Mr. Trump has railed against, “unconstitutional” and to restore the former president’s access to the sites, as well as other members of the lawsuit who have been blocked, and to prevent the tech firms from “censorship” of Mr. Trump in the future.
“Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, unconstitutional and completely un-American,” Mr. Trump said.
“If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone,” he added.
Twitter declined to comment. Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The degree to which the lawsuit was a publicity stunt — Mr. Trump used the opportunity to once again attack some of his favorite political targets that were unrelated to the lawsuit — versus an actual legal gambit was not immediately clear. Mr. Trump also said he would pursue his anti-tech company agenda in Congress, state Legislatures and “ultimately the ballot box.”
Before Mr. Trump was done speaking, both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had sent text messages about the lawsuit and asked for contributions. Mr. Trump’s political action committee sent its own solicitation shortly after the event ended. “Donate NOW,” it said.
The former president made the announcement in concert with the America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit run by veterans of his administration, including Brooke Rollins, the former director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Linda McMahon, who served as administrator of the Small Business Administration.
“There’s not much precedent for an American president taking major-media corporations to court — nor is there much precedent for an American president engaging the judiciary to shape the landscape of American freedoms after his presidency,” said Ms. Rollins in a statement.
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