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Court rejects suit against Twitter, Facebook over alleged anticonservative bias

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Angela Lang/CNET

A federal appeals court has rejected a suit that accused a handful of tech giants of conspiring to suppress conservative views and violating the First Amendment. In a four-page judgement on Wednesday, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit brought by Freedom Watch and political commentator Laura Loom against Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple. 

The court rejected Freedom Watch’s claim that the companies violated free speech rights because the group failed to prove the platforms can violate the First Amendment. “In general, the First Amendment ‘prohibits only governmental abridgment of speech,'” reads the judgement, quoting an earlier decision. 

The court also rejected allegations that the platforms engaged in anticompetitive behavior. The judgement says the “only anticompetitive conduct that Freedom Watch alleges (without supporting factual allegations) is that the Platforms conspired against it to suppress conservative content, but not that the Platforms conspired to acquire or maintain monopoly power.”

Freedom Watch didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but a lawyer for the group told Bloomberg they’d file to have the case reheard and take it to the Supreme Court if necessary. The lawyer, Larry Klayman, also reportedly said he believes the court decision was issued in response to President Donald Trump’s threats to investigate social media site over alleged bias against conservative views. 

The president and his supporters have taken aim at Twitter after the platform on Tuesday added a label to some of Trump’s tweets for containing “potentially misleading information about voting processes.” In response, the president accused Twitter of interfering in the 2020 US presidential election, and on Wednesday tweeted that he would strongly regulate or shut down social media platforms that “silence conservatives voices.”

Twitter’s actions against Trump’s tweets appear to have increased tensions between the company and conservative users, who allege that the social network suppresses their speech. 

The president frequently promotes his views on Twitter but also has long complained of what he sees as an anticonservative bias online. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump is considering a commission to investigate social media for supposed bias.

Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.