During the pandemic, several physicians had their accounts permanently suspended on Twitter. They filed a lawsuit against the social media giant on Monday in San Francisco County Superior Court in California.
Dr Robert Malone, Dr Peter McCullough, and Bryan Tyson are the plaintiffs in the case, claiming that by permanently suspending their accounts, silencing their opinions, and failing to provide them with “verified” badges, Twitter violated the terms of its contract.
Malone, McCullough and Tyson are seeking an order from the judge to compel Twitter to reactivate their accounts because they claim Twitter’s actions were a significant factor in harming them.
The doctors are represented by Bryan M. Garrie and Matthew P. Tyson (no relation to the plaintiff Bryan Tyson).
Matthew Tyson addressed a letter to Twitter’s directors and managing agents on May 12th, requesting that the social media platform reinstate accounts for five doctors whose accounts were suspended and grant them “verified” badges.
He 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 said.
Twitter did not respond to the letter.
According to the complaint, the conditions of Twitter’s content moderation included removal procedures for ineffective treatments and false diagnostic standards, as well as steps for “labelling” information as “misleading.”
Twitter implemented a five-strike policy as part of its misinformation guidelines and community standards.
Twitter’s website reads: “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 set after the third strike. A seven-day account lock occurs after the fourth strike, and a permanent ban occurs after five strikes.
The contention from the plaintiffs is that they depended on Twitter to abide by and enforce its terms in good faith and that Twitter should have known that the plaintiffs would do so.
A “truthful tweet regarding COVID-19 policy, diagnosis and/or treatment,” asserts the complaint, would not violate Twitter’s terms of service, community standards, content moderation policies, or misinformation guidelines.
Matthew Tyson stated in his letter to the social media platform, “None of these physicians posted false or misleading information, nor did they receive five strikes before suspension,”
“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 reads: “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 worldwide 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 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.”
In addition, the company refused to verify them despite meeting Twitter’s criteria.
An account needs to be “notable and active” to be verified.
Twitter alleges that “activists, organisers, and other influential individuals,” including “prominently recognised individuals,” qualify as notable accounts.
In the complaint, Dr Malone is described as an “internationally recognised scientist and physician” who attained his 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.
Having published approximately 100 scientific publications which have been cited more than 12,000 times, Robert Malone is the original inventor of mRNA vaccination technology, DNA vaccination, and multiple non-viral DNA and RNA/mRNA platform delivery technologies. The technology was not designed to immunise people against COVID-19.
Malone is a non-voting member of the National Institutes of Health [Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines] committee, overseeing clinical research for various antibody and drug treatments for COVID-19. He has an “outstanding” impact factor rating in Google Scholar.
Malone alleges he posted accurate information about COVID-19 policy, diagnosis, and treatment on Twitter. His account was indefinitely suspended even though he had no content-related strikes against him and was not in breach of any of Twitter’s rules!
According to the complaint, McCullough is a highly distinguished physician and founder of the Cardiorenal Society of America.
McCullough has more than 1,000 publications and has made presentations on the advancement of medicine worldwide. He has been an invited lecturer at the New York Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.
Additionally, he was a member or chair of the data safety monitoring boards for 24 randomised clinical trials and served on the editorial boards of multiple specialty journals.
According to the lawsuit, 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 COVID-19 treatment, including before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs,”
Despite his account suspension, McCullough was able to open a new account that has acquired more than 480,000 followers, but he cannot get a “verified” badge.
McCullough tweeted about the case on June 28th: “Trouble is on the horizon for the “common carrier” whose only role is to provide a platform for communications operations.”
Tyson has 15 years of expertise as a licensed physician in emergency and hospital care. He works with Dr George Fareed and “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 seven days.”
He has co-authored a book about COVID-19 and provided testimony about early treatment protocols in various proceedings.
As well as all that, he ran for the 25th Congressional District in California’s U.S. House of Representatives but was not recognised as a “notable figure of public interest” in terms of COVID-19 policy, diagnosis, and treatment, preventing him from receiving a “verified” badge on Twitter.
Tyson claims to have only shared accurate information about COVID-19 policy, diagnosis, and treatment on his account. He says none of his tweets was flagged as “strikes”, and none of them broke Twitter’s terms of service, yet his accounts, like Malone’s, were 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.”
If the lawsuit is successful, it will have far-reaching implications for Twitter.