Judge rules journalist’s lawsuit against Twitter allowed to proceed

Independent journalist Alex Berenson is suing Twitter over its decision to oust him from the social media platform last August over his comments regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

According to Politico, Twitter moved to have the former New York Times reporter’s lawsuit dismissed. However, a federal judge just made clear that won’t be happening. 

Inconsistent changes

U.S. District Judge William Alsup was quoted as saying in his decision on Friday that inconsistent changes in Twitter’s terms of service gave Berenson a valid claim.

Specifically, the Clinton-appointed judge focused on assurances given to Berenson by Twitter executives that his COVID-related posts weren’t set to be censored.

“Collectively, these actions plausibly qualify as a clear and unambiguous promise that Twitter would correctly apply its COVID-19 misinformation policy and try to give advance notice if it suspended plaintiff’s account,” Alsup explained.

He went on to point out that “[a]ny ambiguities in a contract like Twitter’s terms of service are interpreted against the drafter, Twitter.”

“Victim of your own doing”

“You’re a victim of your own doing,” Alsup was quoted as telling the Big Tech firm’s attorneys. “You have your terms of use, and then you came out with something that superseded that.”

However, Twitter did score one victory after Alsup agreed that the company could not be held liable for violating Berenson’s First Amendment rights.

“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 stated.

New developments

One factor that could have an important impact on the case is the fact that billionaire Elon Musk recently agreed to purchase Twitter for $44 billion.

Musk has publicly pledged to completely overhaul Twitter’s content moderation policies in the hopes of promoting greater freedom of speech.

Politico reported that the development led to Judge Alsup to question whether the lawsuit even needed to continue, telling Twitter’s attorney, “Your company has been taken over by a new owner, and your new owner may disagree with your position.” The judge added that he doesn’t “want to spin my wheels and do a lot of work for nothing.”

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