SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In a rather unexpected move, the Department of Justice has filed a “Notice of Intervention” regarding the lawsuit of Trump v. Twitter, namely pertaining to the platform having removed the former president from the platform following the incident at the Capitol in January.
The spirit of the November 18th filing is in the defense of 47 U.S. Code § 230 – or as most commonly refer to as Section 230 – regarding the constitutionality of the code since it is at the crux of the legal battle between Trump and the social media platform.
In the simplest of terms, a notice of intervention – which is what the Justice Department filed in regard to the Trump v. Twitter case – is a legal process that allows a person (or entity in this case) who isn’t an original party to a case, but who will be directly and substantially affected by the outcome of the case, to participate in the case as a party.
Basically, the Justice Department is saying that this case’s outcome can impact them since Trump’s lawsuit is tackling protections outlined in Section 230 that Twitter purportedly exercised in removing him from the platform back in January of 2020.
“Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 5.1(c) and 24(a)(1), and in accordance with the authorization of the Acting Solicitor General of the United States, the United States hereby intervenes in this action for the limited purpose of defending the constitutionality of Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (“CDA”) (Pub. L. No. 104-104, § 509, codified at 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)).”
While legal jargon can be a bit tough to digest, the DOJ spelled out that they’re intent on inserting themselves into this particular case because they want to engage in “the limited purpose of defending the constitutionality of Section 230,” meaning they’re essentially coming to Twitter’s defense in an indirect manner.
The reason being is because Twitter’s defense of removing Trump from the platform was done in accordance with the protections outlined in Section 230, specifically section (c)(1) known as the “Protection for ‘Good Samaritan’ blocking and screening of offensive material” that allows the likes of social media companies to delete/remove posts or even users of the platform for speech that – while legal – the platform deems objectionable.
“The United States is entitled to intervene in this action under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and by statute. Rule 5.1(c) permits the Attorney General to intervene in an action where, as here, the constitutionality of a federal statute is challenged. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.1(c). Rule 24 further permits a non-party to intervene when the non-party ‘is given an unconditional right to intervene by a federal statute.’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(1).
The United States has an unconditional statutory right to intervene ‘[i]n any action…wherein the constitutionality of any Act of Congress affecting the public interest is drawn in question[.]’ 28 U.S.C. § 2403(a). In such an action, ‘the court…shall permit the United States to intervene…for argument on the question of constitutionality.’ Id. Here, Plaintiffs have ‘drawn in question’ the constitutionality of 47 U.S.C. § 230(c), and the United States has an unconditional right to intervene to defend the statute.”
The DOJ wrote in their filing that they’re requesting the courts to “set the deadline for the United States to submit its memorandum in defense of 47 U.S.C. § 230(c) as December 9, 2021.”
Needless to say, the Trump v. Twitter legal battle has become a lot more interesting.