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Chuck Johnson's Twitter Free Speech Suit Is Probably DOA


In 2015, Twitter permanently banned alt-right troll Chuck Johnson, after he tweeted that he wanted to "take out" civil rights activist DeRay McKesson. Johnson now says the San Francisco-based company infringed on his First Amendment rights. But the law may say otherwise.

On Monday, Johnson filed a lawsuit against Twitter, arguing that the company banned him for his political beliefs in what he believes is a clear violation of free speech. It asserts that Twitter is "a privately owned public square," and that political speech expressed in that public forum ought to receive First Amendment protections. It also argues that Twitter broke the promise to be open and unbiased that it makes to users like Johnson by booting him, which, his lawyer argues, constitutes a breach of civil contract. Johnson is seeking not only damages, but restoration of his account.


Still, says Dan Rhynhart, a commercial litigator at Blank Rome, the tweet in question may prove unsympathetic to a judge. "Any court would find this is a meritorious basis to suspend the account."

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"Chuck Johnson's Twitter Free Speech Suit Is Probably DOA," by Issie Lapowsky was published in WIRED on January 11, 2018.