Four months ago, Twitter permanently banned a prominent critic of the nation’s COVID-19 policies.
Now, Alex Berenson is suing the Big Tech firm in the hope of convincing a judge that Twitter was actually acting as an arm of the Biden administration.
As The Free Press reported in August, Twitter banned Berenson, a former science reporter for The New York Times who frequently framed the debates over virus policy as “Team Pandemic” against “Team Reality,” for spreading misinformation.
Twitter booted Berenson for “repeated” violations of its policies. But the tweet that earned him exile was about the vaccine: “It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission. Don’t think of it as a vaccine. Think of it — at best — as a therapeutic, with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS. And we want to mandate it? Insanity.”
In his lawsuit, Berenson claims “was true at the time and is true now.”
Earlier this month, the liberal magazine The Atlantic published a piece about the spread of the omicron variant that declared, “The pandemic of the vaccinated can no longer be denied.”
The Atlantic suggested that Americans may no longer be considered “fully” vaccinated until they get a third, or booster, shot.
Almost making Berenson look prophetic, Time magazine on Tuesday likewise noted that omicron is expected to drive infections to record levels, including among those who are vaxxed. Time noted, “COVID-19 vaccines weren’t built to stop all infections, but rather to stop those infections from turning severe or fatal.”
Which is the point Berenson sought to make.
In his lawsuit, Berenson’s lawyers assert that their client “made many statements on Twitter which, although controversial at the time, have since become conventional wisdom, most notably about the profound harm to children caused by remote learning and unnecessary school closures.” They also point out that Twitter reassured Berenson his tweets were not a problem – until they got him banned.
That occurred shortly after President Joe Biden said publicly that social media outlets were “killing people” because they allowed users like Berenson to question the government’s policies and scientific findings.
“On August 28, in the wake of even more calls for censorship from government officials, Twitter permanently suspended Mr. Berenson from its platform, citing ‘repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation rules.’ Mr. Berenson did not violate those rules. Twitter, on the other hand, broke its promises to Mr. Berenson as well as its policies, and violated his rights as it served the federal government’s censorship demands,” Berenson’s legal team argues in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit in part argues that Twitter violated an 1872 California state law that once applied to the telegraph. Berenson’s lawyers argue Twitter is a “common carrier” of communications, and as such, according to the law, “must, if able to do so, accept and carry whatever is offered to him.”
Berenson, court records say, “also has a uniquely viable claim that Twitter acted on behalf of the federal government in censoring and barring him from its platform.”
“While courts have generally refused such ‘state actor’ complaints against social media companies, the extraordinarily close nexus between the July 2021 statements by senior executive branch officials—including President Biden himself—calling for censorship by such companies and Twitter’s corresponding immediate actions against Mr. Berenson mean that this issue merits closer scrutiny.”
Biden actually made that comment in response to a reporter’s question about Facebook. Still, the lawsuit adds, “President Biden’s statement caused other media to conclude that the government ‘blamed’ social media companies ‘for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines,’ creating ‘stalling U.S. vaccine rates.’”
Berenson also maintains that Twitter dumped him for violating its “five-strike” policy, yet never told him when the strikes actually started piling up.
“Twitter deprived Mr. Berenson of the right to speak on its platform. At the same time, Twitter deprived Mr. Berenson of the right to petition the federal government for a redress of grievances by tweeting to and interacting with accounts run and managed by the federal government, including @POTUS,” court documents state.
“As outlined in detail above, Twitter deprived Mr. Berenson of these rights as part of its ‘partnership’ with the federal government. Upon information and belief, the federal government enticed and coerced Twitter to deprive Mr. Berenson of his right to speak and petition the federal government on the platform. … Twitter’s wholesale censorship of Mr. Berenson’s speech and petition rights violates the First Amendment.”
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