Former President Donald Trump's legal effort to get his Twitter account reinstated was dealt a setback on Tuesday when a federal judge ruled his lawsuit should be moved from Florida to California.
Trump was banned from Twitter in January after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol building in a riot that left several people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Twitter said the ban was "due to the risk of further incitement of violence." In July, Trump sued over the Twitter ban.
Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. for the Southern District of Florida on Tuesday granted Twitter's motion to move Trump's lawsuit, rejecting the former president's argument that he's exempt from Twitter's terms of service because he was a sitting president when his account was suspended and legally unable to accept a forum selection clause. That clause, which all users agree to in order to use Twitter, specifies the Northern District Court of California as the venue for resolving legal disputes involving the platform.
"Even assuming that Trump was using his account in his official capacity, Trump has not advanced any legal authority to support his contention that he satisfies the second requirement of the exemption: that he is 'legally unable to accept the controlling law, jurisdiction, or venue clauses. . .'" Scola wrote in his ruling (see below), agreeing with Twitter's argument that the clause is mandatory.
Scola also found that Trump's reliance on a lawsuit filed against him in 2017 for blocking Twitter users from following his account was "misplaced." In that case, the Second Circuit held that Trump's account was a public forum and the president violated the First Amendment by blocking users.
Scola ruled that lawsuit against Trump "has no bearing on the proceedings at hand because it did not consider the enforceability of Twitter's forum selection clause, particularly, whether Trump was exempted from its requirements in his capacity as president."
Trump's use of Twitter redefined politics, letting him sidestep mainstream media to try to take hold of the political narrative. But Twitter, Facebook and Google-owned YouTube booted him from their platforms following the US Capitol Hill riot in January.
The former president sued those platforms, alleging censorship and First Amendment violations, even though the First Amendment applies to the government, not to private companies like social media sites. Trump has for some time claimed without evidence that the companies discriminate against the right, a charge the firms have repeatedly denied.
While those lawsuits wind their way through the courts, Trump announced last week he's launching a new social network called Truth Social, whose goal is to push back against Big Tech.
A legal representative for Trump issued a statement late Tuesday that appeared to suggest the ruling was "expected." Twitter declined to comment on the ruling.