Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

source-codesource codeauthorBen BrodyNoneWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Protocol | Policy

Trump is suing Google, Twitter and Facebook. The cases are 'DOA.'

The former president, who is still suspended from Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, has long tried to punish social media companies that he claims silence conservatives. It hasn't gone well.

A graphic of Donald Trump that appears ripped over his mouth, with text in French peeking through underneath.

Trump has unsuccessfully threatened social media and claimed it silences conservatives.

Image: Charles Deluvio / Protocol

Donald Trump announced Wednesday he'll sue Facebook, Twitter and Google for allegedly silencing him, even though the former president's previous attempts to punish social media have largely failed.

The lawsuits against the companies and CEOs Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai come as Trump remains suspended from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube over his praise of supporters who perpetrated the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

"I stand before you this morning to announce a very important and very beautiful, I think, development for our freedom," said Trump, speaking on Wednesday alongside the leaders of the pro-Trump America First Policy Institute. Trump said he would be the lead plaintiff in a class action seeking an injunction, punitive damages and "prompt restitution" in federal court.

Get access to all the latest tech politics and policy coverage at Protocol | Policy.

Trump often asserts that companies cannot silence users for their political beliefs, and insists that the major social media sites are doing that to conservatives. But free speech rights in the U.S. only stop the government, not private companies, from shutting down people's views, and the social media sites, which have been key to the spread of Trump's movement, deny their content moderation is partisan. U.S. law also immunizes online firms from lawsuits over the third-party content they remove as a way to incentivize the takedown of violent, threatening and horrific content.

For that reason, experts say the suits are almost certainly destined for failure. "Trump's suit is DOA," said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights said in a statement. "In fact, Facebook and Twitter themselves have a First Amendment free speech right to determine what speech their platforms project and amplify—and that right includes excluding speakers who incite violence, as Trump did in connection with the January 6 Capitol insurrection."

Yet Trump, who repeatedly violated the sites' user agreements, has insisted the companies must be punished for alleged misdeeds. During his presidency, he frequently pushed Republicans in Congress to repeal the websites' immunity under Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act, signed an order urging agencies to pare the protections, unsuccessfully vetoed the defense authorization because it didn't repeal the law and issued all manner of threats.

"We're going to hold big tech very accountable," said Trump, who routinely threatens lawsuits and gains publicity from the claims without following through on them. "This is the first of numerous other lawsuits, I assume, that would follow."

The suits aim to find a workaround to the fact that tech companies are private entities by framing them as extensions of Congress, arguing that pressure from congressional Democrats led them to make the content moderation decisions they made.

Talks in Congress regarding ripping out Sec. 230, which has detractors on both sides of the aisle, collapsed as it became clear that Republicans and Democrats wanted different things. President Joe Biden, nominally a critic of the law himself, revoked Trump's order.

"We're going to make sure that the liability protections that they have under Sec. 230 is, at a very minimum, changed and maybe at a maximum taken away," Tump claimed.

In his post-presidency, Trump also had a short-lived blog, and so far appears to have stayed off Gettr, the social media site from former top aide Jason Miller. Miller's site explicitly claimed rights to moderate content in its terms of service, in terms reminiscent of Sec. 230.

Plenty of Democrats have balked at the power of Big Tech companies, including their ability to squash speech, particularly internationally where countries use that power to shut up dissent. And it's certainly true that Trump has been booted, for now, from major platforms for his violations.

Yet the idea of suing the social media sites over alleged censorship is hardly new and is rarely successful. Plaintiffs with lower public profiles than Trump have insisted that sites like Facebook function so much like a government that they can't shut people down. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has also floated regulating Facebook and Twitter as utilities that are so crucial to modern communications that they shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against customers. Even Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law to use the power of the state to force companies to keep up content they would otherwise suppress.

During a speech reminiscent of his campaign rallies that touched on Trump's many political grievances and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump claimed on Wednesday that the companies had ceased being private entities.

Yet the Florida law was blocked last week, at least temporarily, and as recently as 2019, the Supreme Court said that free speech guarantees mean private companies can exercise control over the content they carry.

Protocol | Fintech

Amazon wants a crypto play. Its history in payments is not encouraging.

It missed chances to be PayPal, Square and Stripe — so is this its chance to miss being Coinbase, too?

Amazon wants to be a crypto player.

Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

The news that Amazon was hiring a lead for a new digital currency and blockchain initiative sent the price of bitcoin soaring. But there's another way to look at the news that's less bullish on bitcoin and bearish on Amazon: 13 years after Satoshi Nakamoto's whitepaper appeared on the internet, Amazon is just discovering cryptocurrency?

That may be a bit unkind, but the truth is sometimes unkind. And the reality is that Amazon has a long history of stumbles and missed opportunities in payments, which goes back more than two decades to the company's purchase of internet payments startup

Keep Reading Show less
Owen Thomas

Owen Thomas is a senior editor at Protocol overseeing venture capital and financial technology coverage. He was previously business editor at the San Francisco Chronicle and before that editor-in-chief at ReadWrite, a technology news site. You're probably going to remind him that he was managing editor at Valleywag, Gawker Media's Silicon Valley gossip rag. He lives in San Francisco with his husband and Ramona the Love Terrier, whom you should follow on Instagram.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

That's why we've created the Crypto Maturity Model: an iterative roadmap for cryptocurrency product rollout, enabling financial institutions to evaluate market opportunities while addressing compliance requirements.

Keep Reading Show less
Caitlin Barnett, Chainanalysis
Caitlin’s legal and compliance experience encompasses both cryptocurrency and traditional finance. As Director of Regulation and Compliance at Chainalysis, she helps leading financial institutions strategize and build compliance programs in order to adopt cryptocurrencies and offer new products to their customers. In addition, Caitlin helps facilitate dialogue with regulators and the industry on key policy issues within the cryptocurrency industry.
Protocol | Enterprise

How Google Cloud plans to kill its ‘Killed By Google’ reputation

Under the new Google Enterprise APIs policy, the company is making a promise that its services will remain available and stable far into the future.

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian has promised to make the company more customer-friendly.

Photo: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images 2019

Google Cloud issued a promise Monday to current and potential customers that it's safe to build a business around its core technologies, another step in its transformation from an engineering playground to a true enterprise tech vendor.

Starting Monday, Google will designate a subset of APIs across the company as Google Enterprise APIs, including APIs from Google Cloud, Google Workspace and Google Maps. APIs selected for this category — which will include "a majority" of Google Cloud APIs according to Kripa Krishnan, vice president at Google Cloud — will be subject to strict guidelines regarding any changes that could affect customer software built around those APIs.

Keep Reading Show less
Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is Protocol's enterprise editor, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire, and served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure.

Amazon job opening points to plan to accept crypto payments

The news sparked a rally in the values of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Amazon may be planning to let customers pay for orders with cryptocurrencies.

Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

Amazon is looking to hire a digital currency and blockchain expert suggesting a plan to let customers accept cryptocurrencies as payments.

The tech giant's job opening says Amazon is looking for "an experienced product leader" to help develop the company's "digital currency and blockchain strategy and roadmap" Amazon is looking for product leader with expertise in blockchain, distributed ledger, central bank digital currencies and cryptocurrency.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Protocol | Policy

Big Tech tried to redefine terrorism online. It got messy fast.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism announced a series of narrow steps it's taking that underscore just how fraught the job of classifying terror online really is.

Erin Saltman is GIFCT's director of programming.

Photo: Paul Morigi/Flickr

A little over a month after the Jan. 6 riot, the tech industry's leading anti-terrorism alliance — a group founded by Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter — announced it was seeking ideas for how it could expand its definition of terrorism, which had for years been more or less synonymous with Islamic terrorism. The group, called the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism or GIFCT, had been considering such a shift for at least a year, but the rising threat of domestic extremism, punctuated by the Capitol uprising, made it all the more clear something needed to change.

But after months of interviewing member companies, months of considering academic proposals and months spent mulling the impact of tech platforms on this and other violent events around the world, the group's policies have barely budged. On Monday, in a 177-page report, GIFCT released the first details of its plan, and, well, a radical rethinking of online extremism it is not. Instead, the report lays out a series of narrow steps that underscore just how fraught the job of classifying terror online really is.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Latest Stories