Far-Right Blogger Activist Sues Twitter, Claims Free-Speech Violations
In another example of a conservative accusing a Silicon Valley company of discrimination and suppression of speech, a right-wing blogger suspended by Twitter has filed suit.
Charles Johnson, whose account was suspended in May 2015 after he asked for donations to "take out" Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson, claims the tweet was taken out of context and that Twitter violated his free-speech rights and discriminated against him when it permanently suspended him.
Johnson, who is a former Breitbart News reporter and runs a right-wing blog called GotNews, in the lawsuit cites a report by BuzzFeed last month, which provided a peek into how Twitter struggled to deal with issues surrounding verifying users who in some cases used their accounts to troll or harass others.
According to that report, internal Twitter emails show one executive said Johnson was suspended "even though it wasn't direct violent threats. It was just a call that the policy team made. He is finding loopholes in policy which is almost worse than the people who blatantly have violations."
The BuzzFeed report also noted that Twitter's general counsel said Johnson's suspension was decided by former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who declared Johnson's suspension should be permanent.
"As a direct result of Defendant's actions, competition in the market for journalism has been significantly harmed," Johnson's lawsuit states. The lawsuit also refers to GotNews as "one of the few start-up providers of news and commentary with a conservative viewpoint."
On Tuesday, the items atop the GotNews website included: "ANALYSIS-Richard Spencer: A Man For People Who Find NPR Too Slow" "BOMBSHELL VIDEO: Harvey Weinstein to Bill Clinton: 'I Always Learn Amazing Things From You'" and "BREAKING: Charles C. Johnson Sues Twitter In Landmark Free Speech Case."
Eric Goldman, director of the Santa Clara University School of Law's High Tech Law Institute, told BuzzFeed Monday that Twitter "has a categorical right to block whoever they choose," and noted that Twitter blocked Johnson because "they consider him a troll."
The lawsuit seeks for Johnson to be allowed back on Twitter and for the company to be found guilty of violating his free-speech rights, plus monetary damages.
Twitter said Tuesday it would have no comment.
Johnson's lawsuit was filed Monday in California Superior Court in Fresno, the same day Google was sued by James Damore, the engineer who wrote a memo that suggested biological differences were to blame for the dearth of women in tech and who was later fired. Damore, who is still unemployed, claims in the lawsuit that Google discriminates against white males and conservatives.
Other tech companies that have been charged with bias against conservatives include Facebook, which in 2016 was accused of suppressing news from conservative publications.
In addition, companies such as Apple, PayPal and others have pulled their support for technology that enables funding of white supremacist and hate groups in the wake of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, sparking a warning from advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation about the dangers of censoring speech.
Speaking of fundraising, Johnson is soliciting donations for his lawsuit against Twitter. On the crowdfunding page, he tells potential donors, "This is your last chance to stop Twitter's management from stealing the next election by stopping them in court." He incorrectly claims that Twitter has "suspended President Donald Trump," and adds, "They'll suspend you -- if they haven't already."
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