(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk has tweeted that Donald Trump will be reinstated on Twitter, but the former president isn’t backing down in his legal fight against the social media platform, according to his lawyer.
Without an agreement on terms to end the court dispute, Trump has no plan to withdraw his appeal of a May ruling that dismissed his challenge to the company’s decision to ban him from the platform after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, said John Coale, his attorney.
Despite public comments by Twitter’s new billionaire owner that he will allow Trump’s Twitter account to be restored, “you don’t just do things on your own, you should talk to the other side or wait,” Coale said. “There’s more to it than just letting him back in so we want to talk to see if we can figure something out,” he said.
If the case isn’t resolved with a settlement, a final ruling could set an important precedent on the power of social media companies to deactivate accounts of users found to have violated terms of service. Legal experts have said Trump faces an uphill battle with his legal argument that the Twitter ban violates his right to free speech and amounts to censorship.
“The platforms have had the right to decide who is on the platform, who’s off the platform and what kind of speech is allowed on the platform,” Alex Abdo, litigation director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said Monday in an interview. “The alternative to that is to give the government the power to decide what public discourse looks like, and I think it would be disastrous for public discourse if the government had the power to decide who could speak where and what they could say.”
Lawyers for Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
There have been no discussions with Twitter since Musk’s Nov. 19 tweet, Coale said, adding that when Musk announced Trump’s reinstatement based on the results of a poll of Twitter users, Trump “told me he had no interest, but that could change.”
When Trump first sued Twitter over the ban -- and separately sued Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook and Google’s YouTube over the bans they imposed following the Jan. 6 attack -- he sought monetary damages to punish the companies and ensure other users can’t be banned or flagged by the tech giants.
Abdo said it may not be surprising that Trump wants to keep fighting if his goal is to win damages from Twitter.
“His view would probably be that it doesn’t matter that he’s back on the platform when he was asking for money, not just to be allowed back on,” Abdo said.
Following Musk’s poll, Trump said there are “a lot of problems at Twitter” and said he will stick to his own social-media platform, Truth Social.
Trump was joined in the court fight by other Twitter users who were thrown off the platform, including the American Conservative Union. A San Francisco judge rejected Trump’s argument that Twitter was acting at the behest of the government and suspended his account under pressure from Democratic lawmakers.
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In their bid to get that ruling reversed by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump’s lawyers drew a parallel between the former president’s unproven assertion that the 2020 election was stolen and the persecution of the 17th century astronomer Galileo for saying that the earth revolves around the sun.
“Crackpot ideas sometimes turn out to be true,” Trump’s lawyers said in the Nov. 14 filing, which also referred to debates over the authenticity of a laptop tied to Hunter Biden and whether the Covid virus leaked from a laboratory. “We believe the path to truth is forged by exposing all ideas to opposition, debate, and discussion.”
The legal fight remains heated after Musk’s initial vow to reactivate Trump’s Twitter account.
On Nov. 25, the same day that Musk tweeted that reinstating Trump’s Twitter account would “correct a grave mistake,” Twitter’s lawyers slammed the ex-president’s legal tactics.
They argued in a filing that Trump’s effort to introduce hundreds of pages of additional information for the appeals court to consider is an abuse of procedural rules. Even if it is proper for the court to consider the new material, that “would not change the soundness” of the May dismissal of Trump’s lawsuit, according the company’s filing.
The case is Trump v. Twitter, 22-15961, US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (San Francisco).
--With assistance from Kurt Wagner.
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