The New Civil Liberties Alliance has filed a lawsuit against the US Govt for pressuring Big Tech companies to censor information about COVID-19.
According to a new lawsuit, the government’s campaign to force Big Tech firms like Twitter to crack down on alleged misinformation violates the US Constitution.
President Joe Biden believes it is the responsibility of social media companies to “stop amplifying untrustworthy content, disinformation, and misinformation, especially related to COVID-19, vaccinations, and elections,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has repeatedly pressed Twitter and other platforms to restrict COVID-19 misinformation.
According to the 65-page lawsuit ( read the pdf below), those and other remarks made it obvious that the government was demanding action and considering fines against platforms that did not increase restrictions.
It said Murthy, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and other Biden administration officials “are not simply colluding with, but instrumentalizing Twitter and other technology companies to effectuate their goal of silencing opinions that diverge from the White House’s messaging on COVID-19.” It further added “that commandeering transforms the Surgeon General’s initiative into government action.”
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Three critics of lockdowns and other harsh rules enacted in response to COVID-19 sued HHS, Murthy, and HHS Director Xavier Becerra, alleging that the government effort led directly to their banning from Twitter.
Scientist Mark Changizi, attorney Michael Senger, and stay-at-home father Daniel Kotzin are asking a federal court in Ohio to rule that the effort violated the First Amendment of the Constitution; that Murthy’s anti-misinformation campaign lacked statutory authority; that the government’s request for Twitter and other companies to hand over information about “sources of misinformation” violates the Fourth Amendment because no warrant has been issued; and that Twitter and other corporations are not obligated to censor content and will not face any consequences if they chose not to.
Changizi, of Ohio, was permanently suspended in December 2021, according to the lawsuit, for a Facebook post claiming that influenza is more deadly to children than COVID-19, that vaccines have not been studied long-term, and that COVID-19 vaccines do not slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“All of these views are shared by some scientists, including CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who remarked in August of 2021 that the vaccines do not stop transmission,” the suit added.
Kotzin, of Colorado, was suspended after claiming that the pandemic would end when the majority of people had been infected with COVID-19, a widely held belief given that vaccines quickly lose their effectiveness against infection and provide little initial protection against the Omicron virus variant.
Senger, of California, was suspended on permanent after claiming that mitigating measures were ineffective against COVID-19. That belief was founded on research, including a January study.
Senger added “It’s difficult to overstate the federal government’s cynicism in pretending to respect the First Amendment rights of American citizens while explicitly working with a company whose CEO says it ‘is not to be bound by the First Amendment’ in silencing American citizens on the most widely-used platform for political discourse.”
Requests for comment from Twitter and the Department of Health and Human Services were not answered.
The New Civil Liberties Alliance, which styles itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights organisation, is representing Changizi, Kotzin, and Senger.
“The Surgeon General apparently believes he can do whatever he wishes, even going so far as to commandeer technology companies to stifle the perspectives of those who differ from the government on COVID policies. But Congress has not given him the authority to coerce social media platforms into censoring the voices of those with whom he disagrees, and in fact it could not have given him this power,” Jenin Younes, the firm’s litigation attorney, said in a statement. “The Surgeon General’s demand has turned Twitter’s censorship into government action. Thus, this viewpoint-based suppression of speech violates our clients’ First Amendment rights to free speech.”
The lawsuit is given below: