'Complete eradication': COVID treatment contrarians sue feds, Big Tech, disinfo cops for censorship

Natural News publisher Webseed and Brighteon Media allege First Amendment, regulatory, Texas law violations in suit that echoes complaints against State Department's Global Engagement Center, NewsGuard, Twitter.

Published: June 2, 2024 12:20am

Updated: June 3, 2024 10:20am

Acting out of ideological and financial "anti-competitive animus," federal agencies, Big Tech and purported anti-disinformation groups collaborated to squelch publishers that promote narratives at odds with COVID-19 treatment orthodoxy, a new First Amendment lawsuit alleges.

The federal complaint by Natural News publisher Webseed and its companion Brighteon Media, whose holdings include websites for original and aggregated video and artificial intelligence large language models, joins other anti-censorship lawsuits against the State Department and its Global Engagement Center, NewsGuard and social media.

It makes similar allegations as suits against State by the conservative Daily Wire and The Federalist, whose presiding judge greenlit most claims and granted expedited legal discovery earlier this month; NewsGuard by left-leaning Consortium News; and journalist Alex Berenson against the former Twitter.

The Webseed and Brighteon complaint, which names the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments as federal defendants, is full of quirks, however.

More than 260 times across 89 pages, it uses correlative conjunctions such as "and / or" (46), "was / is" (26 times), "were / are" (11), "business / nerve center" (10) and even "'misinformation' / 'disinformation' / 'untrustworthiness' / 'unreliableness' / 'riskiness,'" in scare quotes (7).

An American Bar Association book says these formulations are loathed by some courts.

Each employee of the U.K.-based defendants, the Global Disinformation Index and Institute for Strategic Dialogue, is described with the "role = … occupation = … residence = … nationality = …" formulation. The suit shorthands defendants Google, Facebook and Twitter as "the Government's Instruments" or a variation 23 times.

It also lauds the origin story of the plaintiffs through their principal, an immigrant from Taiwan, and her "business partner / husband," without naming them. 

Natural News founding editor Mike Adams, who calls himself the "Health Ranger," identified himself as that business partner in Brigtheon's press release on the suit, which says it was filed intentionally on Memorial Day.

An ISD report from 2020 on the couple's "Disinformation Empire" – which mocks a Natural News article that labels COVID a possible "Chinese vaccine experiment gone wrong" – identifies Adams' wife as traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Sheh Lio Adams

Mike Adams interviewed their lawyer Jeffrey Greyber and Social Media Freedom Foundation founder Jason Fyk, a "tech censorship expert," on his Brighteon TV show to "discuss [the] historic lawsuit against Google, Facebook, Twitter and the US government."

The "common denominator" between the "actors / wrongdoers / Defendants and the acts / wrongs flowing from those relationships" is the intended "complete eradication of Plaintiffs from the modern-day public square that is social media, simply because Plaintiffs were bold enough to speak up on 'controversial' life issues," the suit says.

The Adamses "established a large online presence and built popular freedom-related infrastructure" over 20 years, getting banned in China in 2014 for covering subjects such as "illegal organ harvesting with Fa Lun Gong [sic]."

But it was their "quite vocal" support for presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2015 that started years of suppression by the Big Tech triad that is "not much" or "little different" than China's, the suit alleges.

Google "artificially and deceptively reduced" search results for Natural News, then "delisted" its 140,000 web pages "overnight," suspended its merchant account and removed its app from Google Play, according to the publishers. Facebook blocked distribution to "over 99%" of its 2.5 million followers and "will not allow anyone else to share links" from Brighteon.com.

Just the News could not find a specific allegation of how Twitter injured the plaintiffs directly, however, making its inclusion in the lawsuit curious. 

Thirty-nine of the 88 references to Twitter – identified by its new name X only in the defendant list – are in the recurring phrase "Facebook, Google, and Twitter," which makes generic allegations of wrongdoing. The suit quotes executives including new owner Elon Musk, who said Twitter largely complied with censorship requests from State's GEC before his purchase.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas, the suit includes a telling footnote in a section on how the government's partnership with "straight-line competitors" to the plaintiffs violates Texas antitrust law, constituting a "group boycott."

It nods to the lack of specific allegations against Twitter, saying the plaintiffs reserve the right to amend the complaint "when (and if)" legal discovery reveals "the full extent of the Government’s [sic] Instruments’ group collusion with industry comrades (e.g., Apple, Twitter / X, YouTube, et cetera)." Apple and YouTube are not currently defendants.

Like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's joint suit with The Daily Wire and Federalist, the new suit alleges Big Tech is violating the state's social media neutrality law, now pending before the Supreme Court.

Just as the high court struck down the CDC's COVID-justified eviction moratorium as exceeding its congressionally delegated authority, State's GEC – statutorily limited to countering "foreign" propaganda – is violating the Administrative Procedure Act through its "secretive scheme to fund the development" of censorship tools and "promote, test, and market" them to American tech companies, it says.

The plaintiffs identify NewsGuard as one such federally promoted "censorship enterprise," while more cautiously identifying the Global Disinformation Index and Institute for Strategic Dialogue as funded by "Big Tech." 

Webseed and Brighteon properties have been "scarlet-lettered as unreliable and / or risky" by NewsGuard's blacklist, "which such imprinting is then provided to Big Tech (e.g., Facebook)" to carry out, "starving them out of advertising revenue / web trafficking monies and reducing the circulation of Plaintiffs’ reporting and speech," the suit says.

They "conservatively estimate" the plaintiffs' enterprises have lost $25 million to $50 million in revenue from the coordinated suppression, which they seek to recoup from the private defendants, "who are the closest proximate causes of the subject censorship-related harms."

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