“Anti-Vax Influencer” Threatens Legal Action After Twitter Suspends Him For Disinformation
Twitter has suspended another rather prominent account for spreading false information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the (former) account holder argues that his posts were not disinformation. Now he’s musing about how a jury would respond to the site’s ruling on his tweets.
An archived copy of Alex Berenson’s Twitter feed from earlier this month shows a reach of over 300k followers, and a peek at his tweets about COVID, vaccines, and Twitter restrictions. At least two visible posts acknowledge that he’s aware he’ll be permanently suspended if he continues violating the site’s rules, and he directs followers to another site to follow him when that happens.
Berensons promotion of his views on the pandemic has earned a lot of attention, prompting stories such as this one from April, in which The Atlantic dubs him “the pandemic’s wrongest man.”
For the past few weeks on Twitter, Berenson has mischaracterized just about every detail regarding the vaccines to make the dubious case that most people would be better off avoiding them…Usually, I would refrain from lavishing attention on someone so blatantly incorrect. But with vaccine resistance hovering around 30 percent of the general population, and with 40 percent of Republicans saying they won’t get a shot, debunking vaccine skepticism, particularly in right-wing circles, is a matter of life and death.
Now, sure enough, he’s been suspended. NBC News reporter Ben Collins reports that the site confirmed it’s a permanent suspension, and that it was due to violating rules about COVID-19 misinformation.
Anti-mask-turned-anti-vaxx influencer Alex Berenson has been permanently suspended by Twitter.
“The account you referenced has been permanently suspended for repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation rules,” a Twitter spokesperson said, in a statement sent to NBC News.
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 29, 2021
Still, on his Substack, titled Unreported Truths, Berenson remains defiant. Sharing the tweet he credits for his final Twitter farewell — one in which he claims the vaccine doesn’t stop infection or transmission, and in fact should not be thought of as a vaccine at all — he muses about a hypothetical future jury hearing his Twitter case.
This was the tweet that did it. Entirely accurate. I can’t wait to hear what a jury will make of this.
In another post, he announces that he’ll be using an alternate account, under the handle @genrescue, following that up with a question of whether the site can really ban a user from tweeting from someone else’s account or making a new account.
(Archives show that the account in question was being used in 2009 to spread anti-vax theories about autism, and later added a bio connecting the account to J.B. Handley and his Generation Rescue program, which claims to seek “recovery” for autistic kids.)
Berenson says he can’t find anything in Twitter’s Terms of Service that prevents a user from borrowing someone else’s account or making a new one. However, Twitter’s Ban Evasion Policy is on their site, and clear (and was prominent in the news earlier this year, when Donald Trump tried to dodge his ban by using other accounts):
You can’t circumvent permanent suspensions. If an account has been permanently suspended for severe violations of the Twitter Rules, Twitter reserves the right to also permanently suspend any other account we believe the same account holder or entity may be operating in violation of our earlier suspension, regardless of when the other account was created.
You can’t allow someone who has been permanently suspended from Twitter to permanently take over or temporarily operate your account.
The page goes on to describe enforcement of this policy, including suspension or banning of accounts used to dodge a ban.
So,back to Berenson’s primary question: what will a jury make of this?
Well, there’s no record of any legal action filed on Berenson’s behalf so far, but as ABC7 reported earlier this year, a court has previously sided with Twitter on the question of banning users, although this case was about hate speech rather than disinformation.