Twitter has lost its bid to dismiss a lawsuit brought on behalf of Jared Taylor, a white nationalist permanently suspended from the social network in late 2017, after a California judge cast doubts on the company’s claim that it can ban users for any reason it wants.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn ruled Thursday that Mr. Taylor, the founder and editor of the “American Renaissance” white nationalist magazine, can move forward with a claim he filed against Twitter after two of his accounts were banned in December for violating rules introduced that month barring users affiliated with violent extremist groups.
Judge Kahn dismissed some aspects of the suit but ruled that Mr. Taylor can proceed with his claim that Twitter violated California’s Unfair Competition Law by making misleading statements about its commitment to free speech in light of what plaintiffs alleged to be its “unconscionably” restrictive banning policy.
Mr. Taylor’s case is a “classic public interest lawsuit” and “goes to the heart of free speech principles that long precede our constitution,” Judge Kahn said during the hearing, according to a transcript released by American Renaissance.
“It may be speech that you and I don’t wish to enjoy, but that’s not germane to the determination of whether it’s public interest. Public interest doesn’t have a flavor of ideology to it; public interest is whether it benefits the public,” the judge added.
Arguing on Twitter’s behalf Thursday, attorney Patrick Carome argued that the First Amendment gave the company the same editorial rights as over communication platforms with respect to deciding what content to carry.
“And a book store, or a newspaper editor, or a cable platform has a First Amendment right to make good, bad, horrible decisions about who and who does not get to speak on its platform and what content does and does not get to be on its platform,” said Mr. Carome.
“A book store could not be required to carry books that it doesn’t want to show, for any reason, and no one gets to ask. And they don’t have to say in their contracts with the people they buy the books from that, you know, we have a right to turn away any book at all and not sell any book at all,” he added.
The judge seemed skeptical, however, and described the bookstore equivalence as a “poor analogy.”
“Twitter can discriminate on the basis of religion, or gender, or sexual preference, or physical disability, or mental disability?” he asked.
“I understand your position. I’m going to just respectfully disagree with it.”
Twitter did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Launched in 1990, “American Renaissance” is published by the New Century Foundation, a “race-realist, white advocacy organization” founded by Mr. Taylor.
“This is the first time censorship by a social media platform—an increasingly widespread practice seen by many as discrimination against conservative viewpoints has been found actionable under state or federal law,” American Renaissance said in statement Friday. “This finding could have far-reaching consequences for other internet platforms that have become essential vehicles for the expression of ideas but that silence voices with which they disagree.”
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