In a motion to dismiss a new lawsuit, the Trump campaign, represented by lawyers from the firm Jones Day, turned to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to state that WikiLeaks couldn’t be held “liable” for publishing Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails because the whistleblowing website served as an “intermediary” for other parties’ information.
“A website that provides a forum where ‘third parties can post information’ is not liable for the third party’s posted information. Since WikiLeaks provided a forum for a third party (the unnamed “Russian actors”) to publish content developed by that third party (the hacked emails), it cannot be held liable for the publication,” the motion read.
They further added that the campaign couldn’t be held legally responsible for the publication of the DNC emails on WikiLeaks.
The lawyers appealed to the First Amendment, which protects the right to “disclose information – even stolen information – so long as (1) the speaker did not participate in the theft and (2) the information deals with matters of public concern.”
“At a minimum, privacy cannot justify suppressing true speech during a political campaign. The First Amendment ‘has its fullest and most urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office’. It leaves voters ‘free to obtain information from diverse sources in order to determine how to cast their votes,’” the filing read.
The motion was submitted in response to a civil lawsuit brought against the Trump campaign by one ex-employee from the Democratic Party and two donors, who alleged that the leaked emails had revealed “identifying information.”
While the Trump campaign’s lawyers leapt to the defense of the website in their brief, the current administration has previously blasted WikiLeaks for releasing classified documents, with then-CIA director Mike Pompeo – now the secretary of state – dismissing the platform as a “hostile non-state intelligence service” in 2017.
According to the indictment, they used a website run by an organization, “that had previously posted documents stolen from US persons, entities, and the US government,” in an apparent allusion to WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks, which was accused by Trump’s Democratic rival in the election, Hillary Clinton, of acting as a "fully owned subsidiary of Russian intelligence" after publishing emails leaked from the DNC servers during the campaign, has denied any efforts to meddle in the 2016 election in the United States, as well as conspiring with Russia.
Both Washington and Moscow have repeatedly dismissed claims of collusion to influence the outcome of the vote.