The physicians said that they were suing Twitter for permanently suspending them for posting truthful information about COVID and also failing to provide them with verified badges.
The complaint claims that by permanently suspending the plaintiffs’ accounts, silencing their opinions, and failing to provide them “verified” badges, Twitter violated the terms of its contract.
Plaintiffs are seeking the judge to order Twitter to reactivate their accounts because they claim Twitter’s actions were a major factor in harming them.
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On May 12, Matthew Tyson addressed a letter to Twitter’s directors and managing agents requesting that the social media platform reinstate the accounts of five doctors, including the plaintiffs, and grant them “verified” badges. Twitter didn’t respond.
Matthew Tyson acknowledged in the letter that Twitter is a “private company” with the right to “suspend user accounts for any or no reason.”
“However, Twitter also implemented specific community standards to limit COVID-19 misinformation on the platform, and Twitter was bound to follow those terms,” he added.
The conditions of Twitter’s content moderation, according to the complaint, included removal procedures for ineffective treatments and false diagnostic standards, as well as steps for “labeling” information as “misleading.”
As part of its COVID-19 misinformation guidelines and community standards, Twitter has a “five-strike policy.”
According to Twitter’s website:
“The consequences for violating our COVID-19 misleading information policy depend on the severity and type of the violation and the account’s history of previous violations. In instances where accounts repeatedly violate this policy, we will use a strike system to determine if further enforcement actions should be applied.”
“No account-level action” is the first strike. A 12-hour account lock is imposed after the second strike. Another 12-hour account lock is imposed after the third strike. A seven-day account lock occurs after the fourth strike, and a permanent ban occurs after five strikes.
Plaintiffs contend that they depended on Twitter to abide by and enforce its terms in good faith and that Twitter should have known that plaintiffs would do so.
A “truthful tweet regarding COVID-19 policy, diagnosis and/or treatment,” claims the complaint, would not violate Twitter’s terms of service, community standards, content moderation policies, or misinformation guidelines.
“None of these physicians posted false or misleading information, nor did they receive five strikes before suspension,” Matthew Tyson stated in his letter to Twitter.
“It’s no accident that Twitter violated its own COVID-19 misinformation guidelines and suspended the accounts of Drs. Zelenko, Malone, Fareed, Tyson and McCullough,” he wrote.
The letter stated:
“Twitter received express and implied threats from government officials to censor certain viewpoints and speakers, lest Twitter face the amendment or revocation of Section 230, or antitrust enforcement. This was a financial decision for Twitter.
“For the sake of profits, it chose to abandon its role as a neutral internet service provider and instead openly and intentionally collude with government to silence lawful speech.”
Lead counsel Matthew Tyson and co-counsel Garrie said the following in an email to The Defender:
“In this political climate, honesty is a rare commodity, and concerns over new and experimental vaccines and drug therapies and the safety and effectiveness of alternative outpatient treatments should be the subject of full and transparent public debate.
“Drs. Malone, Tyson and McCullough are highly qualified and credentialed physicians and scientists who posted truthful information on Twitter that contradicted the mainstream narrative regarding COVID-19 policy, diagnosis, and treatment.
“They shared fact-based information which furthered an important public interest as people around the world try to decide how to treat themselves and their loved ones for COVID-19. Twitter silenced them.
“Our clients seek to hold Twitter liable not as a Section 230 publisher, but as a counterparty to a contract, as a promisor who has breached the very terms it put in place to moderate tweets. We will hold Twitter accountable in court and prove the truth of our clients’ statements for the world to see.”
Twitter Refused to Verify Physicians’ Accounts
In addition to the plaintiffs’ accounts being suspended from Twitter, the company refused to verify them even though they met Twitter’s criteria.
An account needs to be “notable and active” in order to be verified.
Twitter specifies that “activists, organizers, and other influential individuals,” including “prominently recognized individuals,” qualify as notable accounts.
Malone is described in the complaint as a “internationally recognized scientist and physician” who completed a fellowship at Harvard Medical School as a global clinical research scholar and received his scientific training at the Molecular Biology and Virology laboratories of the Salk Institute and the University of California.
Malone has “roughly 100 scientific publications, which have been cited more than 12,000 times,” and is the “original inventor of mRNA vaccination technology, DNA vaccination, and multiple non-viral DNA and RNA/mRNA platform delivery technologies.”
He is a non-voting member of the National Institutes of Health [Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines] committee, which is in charge of overseeing clinical research for a variety of drug and antibody treatments for COVID-19, and he has a “outstanding” impact factor rating on Google Scholar.
According to the complaint, Malone posted accurate information on Twitter about COVID-19 policy, diagnosis, and/or treatment. His account was indefinitely suspended despite the fact that he had no content-related strikes against him and had not broken any Twitter rules.
McCullough is a highly distinguished physician who founded and is currently president of the Cardiorenal Society of America, according to the complaint.
He has been “published more than 1,000 times, made presentations on the advancement of medicine across the world and has been an invited lecturer at the New York Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.”
Additionally, McCullough was a member or chair of the data safety monitoring boards for 24 randomized clinical trials in addition to serving on the editorial boards of multiple specialty journals.
He was a “leader in the medical response to COVID-19, has more than 30 peer-reviewed publications on the infection, and has commented and testified extensively on COVID19 treatment, including before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs,” the lawsuit states.
Despite having his account suspended, Twitter allowed McCullough to open a new account that had more than 480,000 followers. He still isn’t able to get a “verified” badge, though.
Referring to the case, McCullough tweeted on June 28 that “trouble is on the horizon for the “common carrier” whose only role is to provide a platform for communications operations.”
Tyson is a licensed physician with 15 years of expertise in emergency and hospital care. He works with Dr. George Fareed, who was also suspended from Twitter for allegedly providing accurate COVID-19 information.
The complaint claims that Tyson and Fareed “gained international recognition for providing successful early treatment to more than 10,000 COVID-19 patients, with zero patient deaths when treatment was started within 7 days.”
Tyson co-authored a book about COVID-19 and provided testimony about early treatment protocols in a various proceedings.
He also ran for the 25th Congressional District in California’s U.S. House of Representatives, but was not recognized as a “notable figure of public interest” in terms of COVID-19 policy, diagnosis, and/or treatment, preventing him from receiving a “verified” badge on Twitter.
Tyson claims that using his account, he only shared accurate information about COVID-19 policy, diagnosis, and/or treatment, and that none of his tweets were flagged as “strikes” or broke Twitter’s terms of service.
Tyson’s, Fareed’s accounts like Malone’s were also permanently suspended.
“In a nutshell, these are five [physicians] of the most knowledgeable and helpful voices in the world regarding COVID-19 treatment,” Matthew Tyson wrote in his letter. “Disturbingly, Twitter silenced all of them.”
Read the lawsuit given below: