GotNews Editor-in-Chief Charles C. Johnson filed a landmark free speech lawsuit against Twitter in California State Superior Court today.
The lawsuit documents the social media giant’s unlawful censorship of Johnson – and the damages it caused Johnson – on several fronts. Johnson, who is represented by Robert E. Barnes of Barnes Law, details various causes of action demonstrating how Twitter’s actions violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act as well as the California and United States constitutions.
Johnson is seeking, among other relief, a declaratory judgment that Twitter has violated and continues to violate his free speech rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution and/or Article I, section 2 of the California Constitution.
The lawsuit’s introduction observes that “like the company towns of old, [Twitter] is a privately-owned public square. And therein lies the danger.”
It also includes a powerful big-picture description of what is at stake, explaining how “[t]his case will decide more than the fate on one man and one of the modern monopolies of social media. This case will decide whether Twitter can, like the monopolists before them, lie with impunity and discriminate with impunity? Or will foundations freedoms once again protect the public from the crushing power of these modern age monopolists?”
Johnson has set up a FreeStartr campaign to help fund his landmark lawsuit, which you can contribute to here in cash or cryptocurrency. The page notes that “This is your last chance to stop Twitter’s management from stealing the next election by stopping them in court.”
Johnson’s lawsuit describes how “in December of 2017, plaintiff discovered the truth from internal Twitter emails leaked to Buzzfeed” – a reference to BuzzFeed‘s bombshell story last month, in which top Twitter executives admit that their decision to ban him was not based on any direct violation of Twitter’s terms. Rather, as the complaint alleges, “the plaintiff had been secretly, permanently banned from Twitter” and also notes “this ban was not based on any violations of Twitter’s terms.”
Furthermore, the case references Twitter’s infamous history of censoring conservatives. “Twitter’s bias against those who espouse conservative political ideas is well known,” the lawsuit asserts. “Twitter has repeatedly banned conservative users under the guise of stopping harassment, but fails to do the same when the harassers have a liberal viewpoint.”
“As such, and because Twitter has admitted the Plaintiffs did not violate their Twitter rules, Plaintiff has reason to and does believe that his accounts were banned as a result of Twitter’s bias against those who promote conservative political views,” the lawsuit reads. Johnson’s original account was banned from Twitter in May of 2015 after he made an obvious metaphor that his opponents willfully misinterpreted.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has criticized Twitter for this “double standard” in how the company regulates conservative users and content. “When it comes to a free and open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem,” Pai said at an R Street Institute event last month. “The company has a viewpoint, and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”
Pai also referenced how Twitter initially blocked Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn from running a Senate campaign ad in October because she claimed that she “stopped the sale of baby body parts” in her video. Twitter initially deemed that statement “an inflammatory statement that is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction” and said she must either remove that line or her ad would not be allowed to run. The company later reversed its position and let her run the ad after receiving massive backlash.
The struggle to hold Silicon Valley giants accountable – on censorship and many other issues – is quickly becoming a pressing, non-partisan issue. GotNews will continue to update its readers on Johnson’s lawsuit as it moves forward.
Stay tuned for more.
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