Alex Berenson, the former New York Times journalist and COVID-19 vaccine sceptic, wants to use his lawsuit against Twitter to "shine a light" on the company's approach to content moderation and censorship.
Berenson wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in which he spoke about an April 29 ruling by Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissing Twitter's attempt to toss Berenson's lawsuit against the company and how he hoped that it would allow him to share all documents discovered through his suit with the public.
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Alsup's ruling "offers the potential to shine a light on the so-far hidden connections among Twitter, federal agencies, and the White House as they tried to suppress dissent about Covid and the vaccines," Berenson argued.
Berenson filed a lawsuit in December in the Nothern District of California, arguing the social media company violated his First Amendment rights and that Twitter had violated California's common carrier law when it banned Berenson from his account in July 2021.
The lawsuit alleged that Twitter decided to suspend his account after government officials spoke about how COVID-19 misinformation was "killing people," implying that the ban was prompted by the government rather than the company's policies alone. He is seeking an injunction against Twitter that would force it to reinstate his account and award him damages.
Alsup agreed to allow Berenson's lawsuit solely on Berenson's claim that Twitter changed its rules regarding the content that counts as "COVID misinformation."
“Collectively, these actions plausibly qualify as a clear and unambiguous promise that Twitter would correctly apply its COVID-19 misinformation policy and try to give advance notice if it suspended plaintiff’s account,” Alsup wrote in his decision to allow Berenson to continue his suit against Twitter. The federal judge dismissed all other claims, stating that Section 230's protections were broad enough to shield Twitter from Berenson's allegations involving common carrier law or First Amendment violations.
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Medical officials and journalists have criticized Berenson for making false or misleading statements about COVID-19 throughout the pandemic. One Atlantic article labeled Berenson the "Pandemic's Wrongest Man."
While Elon Musk has put his deal to acquire Twitter temporarily on hold, he has expressed a desire to limit Twitter's content moderation rules. This includes the decision to reinstate former President Donald Trump's account. It is unclear if Musk would also lift Twitter bans on people like Berenson.