Foes of President Donald Trump and his tweeting habits are pitching a long-shot attempt to buy out the micro-blogging site Twitter for the sole purpose of blocking him from ever again using his favorite social media tool.
They hope to raise enough money though the crowdfunding site Gofundme to buy a controlling stake in publicly traded Twitter (TWTR) and then kick off the Tweeter-in-Chief. Sad!
Never mind the challenge of raising billions to snap up a majority of the shares in publicly traded Twitter (TWTR), currently valued at around $12 billion, far from its $32 billion value back when it went public in 2013.
Could such a back-door effort to silence Donald Trump's tweets ever work?
Twitter could indeed bar the president from its site because the company and other social networks have broad discretion in how they operate, according to Charles Glasser, a media law and ethics professor at New York University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Twitter users don't have a constitutional right to access the company's service, although the content of Tweets is protected by the First Amendment, Glasser said. As long as Twitter doesn't treat Mr. Trump differently than it would any other user, he wouldn't have strong grounds to challenge any decision to remove him. "Most of those terms and conditions have very vague community standards sections, and the First Amendment requires government action, and Twitter is a private company," Glasser explained.
Twitter can take action against users when they are deemed abusive, such as when conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos targeted "Saturday Night Live" performer Leslie Jones last year and was banned from the site "for life." Many other Twitter users, however, have complained of being targeted by tweeters and re-tweeters who escape punishment.
"The main constraint on Twitter would be business," said Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA's law school. "Lots of people dislike Trump but not everybody. There are lots of people who quite like Trump. There are lots of people who dislike Trump but would still be upset by the notion of a business kicking off such an important voice."
Many Wall Street analysts and investors have complained that Twitter has failed to capitalize on the attention that President Trump brings to the site The company lost 2 million monthly active users in the U.S. in the most recent quarter. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to post traffic gains at Twitter's expense.
Mr. Trump has more than 36 million followers, ranking 26th, just behind CNN, which he repeatedly denounces for spreading "fake news." Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in May that Mr. Trump's tweets were "really important" as a tool for keeping the president accountable. Twitter declined to comment for this story.
Last week, former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson started a GoFundme crowdfunding campaign to raise money to buy Twitter and kick off Mr. Trump: "If @Twitter executives won't shut down Trump's violence and hate, then it's up to us. #BuyTwitter #BanTrump."
According to GoFundMe, the campaign has raised all of $44,000 toward its $1 billion goal. "Donald Trump has done a lot of horrible things on Twitter," the site says. "From emboldening white supremacists to promoting violence against journalists, his tweets damage the country and put people in harm's way. But threatening actual nuclear war with North Korea takes it to a dangerous new level."
In the highly likely event that the campaign fails, Plame Wilson vowed to try to buy a "significant stake" in Twitter so that she could push the idea of a Trump ban at the company's next shareholder meeting. If that doesn't work, the site says, the money raised by the campaign will go to Global Zero, a non-profit that raises awareness of the dangers of nuclear war.
The Trump administration, for its part, seems unmoved by Plame Wilson's campaign. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the low level of support for the fundraising campaign shows that the American people have no problems with Mr. Trump's tweeting.
Indeed, UCLA's Volokh argued that the attempted Twitter takeover could backfire.
"I can't think of better publicity for Donald Trump," he said, "than an idea that some rich liberals are going to buy up Twitter just to try and shut him up."