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SAN DIEGO (Sept. 1, 2021) — Social media influencer Justin Hart has filed a federal lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, U.S. President Joe Biden, and the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy for violating his First Amendment right to free speech. Hart’s lawsuit says the federal government is colluding with social media companies to monitor, flag, suspend, and delete social media posts it deems “misinformation.” Hart is represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, a national public-interest law firm that fights to protect fundamental constitutional rights.
“The recent admission that the White House has a team of government workers flagging Americans’ social media posts for removal is extremely disturbing, and it’s illegal,” said Brian Kelsey, managing attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “Regardless of one’s politics or views about COVID, every citizen should be greatly alarmed by this melding of Big Government and Big Tech to control what you see, hear and know about one of the greatest public issues of our time.”
Justin Hart is a data analyst and digital strategist. Over the last year, his Facebook and Twitter accounts were suspended multiple times for sharing data and scientific research about COVID. Most recently, Hart’s accounts were temporarily locked for posting an infographic that pointed out the lack of scientific research behind young children wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID.
“It’s clear to Americans that what is said at the White House podium isn’t always true, so why do we think it’s acceptable for the government to direct social media companies to censor people on critical issues such as COVID?” Hart said. “Until it happens to you, the average citizen probably has no idea how much excessive control Facebook, Twitter, and others have over our public dialogue. Now, the federal government is working with these companies to stamp out free speech. It’s grossly unconstitutional and it must stop.”
In a July 15, 2021, press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki revealed that senior White House staff “is in regular touch” with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms regarding posts about COVID-19, while the Surgeon General’s office is “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread” what the administration has unilaterally declared as “disinformation.”
Kelsey added, “We have all seen how public health authorities and medical experts have changed their views countless times regarding the threat of COVID and how to treat and control it, so the notion that the White House is now going to dictate to our largest media platforms what is communicated about the disease is dangerous and illegal. We need more learned, independent minds and perspectives, not fewer.”
The lawsuit, Hart v. Facebook, was filed Aug. 31, 2021, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. Case filings are available here.