Doctors accused of spreading COVID-19 misinformation sue Twitter

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THREE doctors have filed a complaint against Twitter following the suspension of their accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation on the platform.

The physicians, through their attorneys, filed the complaint on June 27, 2022 after the microblogging platform had suspended their accounts permanently on the grounds that they posted misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines.

The complaint against the tech company was filed with the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco in the United States.

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The three doctors in the suit are Robert Malone, an internist/immunologist who is licensed to practice in Maryland, Brian Tyson of El Centro, California, and Peter McCullough, a clinical cardiologist in practice at Dallas-based HeartPlace, which offers cardiovascular and related services.

Forbes had reported in January that Malone made “unfounded claims about COVID-19 vaccines” on the Joe Rogan Experience, an eponymous podcast on Spotify.

While Tyson is a candidate for Congress in California’s 25th District, Baylor Scott and White Health had received a restraining order against McCullough, who allegedly continued to claim an affiliation with the non-profit health system.

The complaint issued on behalf of the three physicians includes a letter dated May 12, 2022 that demands that Twitter immediately reinstate the accounts of Malone, Tyson, and McCollough, in addition to the accounts of two other physicians, Vladimir Zelenko and George Fareed who practice together.

The complainants alleged that Twitter violated its policy for COVID-19 misinformation guidelines and community standards.

It asserts that the social media platform failed to comply with its “five-strike policy as part of its COVID-19 misinformation and community standards.”

Twitter’s policy states that the consequences for violating its COVID-19 misleading information policy “depend on the severity and type of the violation and the accounts history of previous violations.”

For accounts that continue to violate the policy, the microblogging platform has a strike system to determine any appropriate enforcement actions.

The strike system is outlined as follows:
• One strike: no account-level action
• Two strikes: a 12-hour account lock
• Three strikes: a 12-hour account lock
• Four strikes: a 7-day account lock
• Five or more strikes: permanent suspension of the account

The holder of the Twitter account that has been locked or suspended has the right to submit an appeal to the company.

“We believe this system further helps to reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter, particularly for high-severity violations of our rules,” the policy states.

Malone and Tyson alleged that their accounts with the usernames @rwmalonemd and @btysonmd respectively, were suspended for posting truthful information about COVID-19.

While McCollough’s previous account (@cov19treatments) was suspended, he was allowed to use a different Twitter handle (@p_mcculloughmd) but was unable to receive the blue verified badge, despite having more than 475,000 followers.

Malone and Tyson seek to have their accounts reactivated, to regain the costs of filing a lawsuit, and to receive any other relief, as determined by the court.

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McCollough seeks to recoup the costs of filing a lawsuit (including attorneys’ fees) and to receive any other relief, as determined by the court, in addition to securing the blue verified badge for his @p_mccolloughmd account.

Malone and Tyson’s accounts continue to be suspended as Twitter did not respond to the May 12 letter.

McCollough sends tweets using his @p_mcculloughmd account as recently as July 14.

Copied in the complaint was the Twitter handle of Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, who in April reached an agreement with Twitter to take over the platform prior to the announcement that he would not follow through with the deal.

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