Former President Donald Trump scored a First Amendment win when a New York judge dismissed a case against him and popular social media personality CarpeDonktum over a meme criticizing legacy media as “fake news.”
According to New York Supreme Court Judge David Benjamin Cohen, the meme retweeted by Trump and created by CarpeDonktum, whose real name Logan Cook, was “newsworthy” and clearly satirical. The Hollywood Reporter described the video in question:
Cook found a video of a white toddler running after a black toddler and stuck a chyron reading “breaking news” over it. The captions read, “Terrified Todler [sic] Runs From Racist Baby” and “Racist Baby Probably A Trump Voter.”
The video then fades to black, and reads, “What actually happened.” The toddlers run at each other and embrace. A new caption: “AMERICA IS NOT THE PROBLEM…FAKE NEWS IS. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FAKE NEWS DUMPSTER FIRES.”
Twitter quickly added one of their infamous “manipulated video” labels to the clearly faux meme. And later, the family of the toddlers in the meme filed a private suit against Trump and Cook alleging “the exploitation of the childrens’ image had violated New York privacy and publicity rights law (N.Y. Civil Rights Law §§50 and 51) and was both an intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress,” The Hollywood Reporter noted.
“Initially, as defendants assert, the video was newsworthy,” Cohen wrote in his decision. “To promote freedom of expression, the meaning of ‘newsworthiness’ has been broadly construed and includes ‘not only descriptions of actual events … but also articles concerning political happenings, social trends, or any subject of public interest.'”
“It is common knowledge that one of the principal tactics of Trump’s presidential campaigns, as well as his presidency, was to incessantly attack the mainstream media as purveyors of ‘fake news,’ including his claim that the media exaggerates the extent of racial division in this country,” the judge continued. “Thus, the video’s references to ‘fake news’ and its depiction of race relations, however distorted, are clearly newsworthy.”
“Since the video is therefore a satire, albeit one which some may consider to be rather distasteful, this Court is constrained to find that it is not actionable,” he said.
Cohen, though, did not agree with Trump’s request to have his legal fees paid for from the “frivolous” suit. The plaintiffs had a “good faith basis” for their case, Cohen said, and “should not be penalized by the draconian language set forth in” the anti-SLAPP statute, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Last week, Trump filed class-action lawsuits against Big Tech giants Facebook, Google, and Twitter over the censorship of conservatives, The Daily Wire’s Ian Haworth reported:
Speaking at a news conference, Trump said the lawsuits would demand that the court prevent ongoing censorship.
“We’re demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing, and canceling that you know so well,” Trump said, calling the lawsuits “a very important game-changer for our country.”
The lawsuits, filed in the Southern District of Florida, argue that Big Tech giants violated Trump’s First Amendment rights when they suspended his social media accounts. In addition, they claim that many such platforms should be considered as “state actors” who should be limited by “First Amendment restrictions on government limitations on free speech.” Finally, the lawsuits look to strike down Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as well as seeking “unspecified punitive damages.”