Three physicians are suing Twitter, alleging the company violated its own terms of service and community standards when it suspended their accounts for posting “truthful statements regarding COVID-19 policy, diagnosis and/or treatment.”
Drs. Robert Malone, Peter McCullough and Bryan Tyson on Monday filed the lawsuit in Superior Court in California, San Francisco County.
The complaint alleges Twitter breached the terms of its contract when it permanently suspended the plaintiffs’ accounts, silenced their voices and failed to provide them with “verified” badges.
Plaintiffs allege Twitter’s actions were a substantial factor in causing them harm, and are asking the judge to order Twitter to reactivate their accounts.
All three doctors are represented by attorneys Bryan M. Garrie and Matthew P. Tyson (no relation to the plaintiff, Bryan Tyson).
Matthew Tyson on May 12, sent a letter to the directors and managing agents of Twitter requesting the company reinstate the accounts of five physicians, including the plaintiffs, and provide them with “verified” badges. Twitter failed to respond.
In the letter, Matthew Tyson acknowledged Twitter is a “private company” and its terms state it can “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.
According to the complaint, Twitter’s content-moderation terms included removal procedures for ineffective treatments and false diagnostic criteria, and measures for “labeling” information as “misleading.”
Twitter has a “five-strike policy” as part of its COVID-19 misinformation guidelines and community standards.
Twitter’s website states:
“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.”
Strike 1 is “no account-level action.” Strike 2 results in a 12-hour account lock. Strike 3 results in another 12-hour account lock. Strike 4 results in a seven-day account lock and five or more strikes lead to permanent suspension.
Plaintiffs claim they relied on Twitter to employ and enforce its terms in good faith and it was foreseeable to Twitter that plaintiffs would rely on the terms the company is obligated to follow.
According to the complaint, a “truthful tweet regarding COVID-19 policy, diagnosis and/or treatment” 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.”
In an email to The Defender, lead attorney Garrie and co-counsel Matthew Tyson said:
“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.”