A federal judge on Friday rejected Twitter’s requests to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it by an independent journalist.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup’s decision to proceed with the case marks a setback for Twitter in its legal battle with former New York Times reporter, novelist and non-fiction writer Alex Berenson.
While Alsup refused to dismiss the case as a whole, he dismissed Berenson’s claims relating to free speech, pointing to the federal protections Twitter enjoys through Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act, POLITICO reported.
“For an internet platform like Twitter, Section 230 precludes liability for removing content and preventing content from being posted that the platform finds would cause its users harm, such as misinformation regarding COVID-19,” Alsup wrote, according to the outlet.
Berenson had sued Twitter after it suspended him from the platform for criticizing COVID-19 vaccines as being advanced therapeutics that came with dangerous side effects.
“My final tweet said it doesn’t stop infection or transmission about the vaccines,” he said. “I think everyone in the world would agree about the RNA vaccines (Moderna & Pfizer). That’s correct,” Berenson told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson.
“Mr. Berenson’s claim that the COVID-19 vaccines do not ‘stop infection’ or ‘transmission’ of COVID-19 was true at the time and is true now,” the lawsuit stated.
“It is undisputed that vaccinated persons can contract and spread COVID-19 … Mr. Berenson’s allegedly ban-worthy claim that the COVID-19 vaccines do not stop infection or transmission does not violate Twitter’s policy.”
The first preliminary hearing of the case happened on Thursday.
According to POLITICO, Alsup, a Bill Clinton appointee, seemed to sympathize with Berenson’s accusations that Twitter’s sudden changes to its rules indicated that Twitter officials thought that they could get away with censorship “based on politics.”
The lawsuit brought by Berenson will not pose a challenge to the Section 230 protections Big Tech enjoys, POLITICO reported.
However, according to the outlet, the lawsuit might be a test of Twitter’s powers to throw users out of its platform.
“This case raises significant questions about private power and the state of free speech in America,” the lawsuit stated.
“Do our laws place any limitations on Twitter’s power to discriminate against speakers—even as it becomes the most important outlet for journalism worldwide, in part because its promises of unfettered free speech have attracted an audience of hundreds of millions of users?”
“There’s this idea that somehow if we allow people free speech, there’ll be this complete breakdown,” Berenson told Tucker Carlson. “That’s nonsense. Twitter just needs to allow the kinds of speech online that are allowed offline and with the same limits.”
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