Influential COVID policy skeptic sues Big Tech, feds for censoring his social media posts
"Within days" of removals, Biden administration admitted it was pressuring companies to remove "misinformation," suit says.
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An influential COVID policy skeptic followed through on his threat to sue Facebook for suspending his account this summer based on a graphic he posted: "Masking Children is Impractical and Not Backed by Research or Real World Data."
Identified in a recent MIT paper as one of a handful of "anchors" for the anti-mask network on Twitter, Justin Hart also named Twitter, President Biden, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as defendants in the lawsuit.
"When the federal government admits to conspiring with social media companies to censor messages with which it disagrees, as it has in this case, both the government and the private companies are guilty of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination," it says.
Five days after Facebook suspended Hart's account, which he also used for business, Twitter suspended his account for commenting on a CDC report that 70% of infected people were wearing masks, according to the suit. "We know that masks don't protect you ... but at some point you have to wonder if they are PART of the problem," he wrote.
Murthy and White House press secretary Jen Psaki publicly disclosed "within days" of the two removals that the feds were pressuring social media to remove "misinformation super-spreaders" and that White House "senior staff" were directly contacting the companies.
The suit cites Murthy's 22-page advisory asking technology platforms to monitor and stop distribution of views such as Hart's, through algorithm changes, increased staffing of content moderation teams, imposing "clear consequences" for violators and amplifying "trusted messengers and subject matter experts."
In addition to the First Amendment claim for "state action" against Hart's posts, the suit claims HHS and OMB are violating the Freedom of Information Act by missing their statutory deadline to provide him requested records relevant to the suit.
The California resident is also using the state constitution's free speech clause to accuse the tech platforms of violating his speech rights as "common carriers of information." He cited a state supreme court ruling that barred a shopping center from evicting political protesters from its private property.
"It's clear to Americans that what is said at the White House podium isn't always true, so why do we think it's acceptable for the government to direct social media companies to censor people on critical issues such as COVID?" Hart asked in a press release by his lawyers at the Liberty Justice Center.
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