Twitter Files ‘Revealed Secret Debate’ Inside Platform Leadership to Ban Berenson Over COVID-19

June 2nd, 2023 4:52 PM

Independent journalist Alex Berenson again highlighted Twitter’s wrongful previous censorship of him, using evidence from The Twitter Files.

Berenson, who was banned from Twitter in August 2021 for supposedly violating the platform’s COVID-19 rules, received key evidence from independent journalist Michael Shellenberger, obtained while compiling The Twitter Files. Twitter’s lawyers concluded, after reviewing still-secret, “problematic” and “sensitive” documents, that the platform couldn’t win against Berenson’s April 22 lawsuit. Even top Twitter executives disagreed with the ban, Berenson tweeting that “The newly revealed secret debate inside Twitter’s former leadership highlights the still-unanswered question of whether Twitter banned me because it feared government or corporate retribution for allowing me to continue to publish on its site.”

Two 2022 email chains were first obtained by Shellenberger and passed to Berenson. Twitter’s documents already showed Berenson that the Biden White House and a Pfizer board member aimed to have him censored. Was that the reason Berenson was shut down? Twitter’s reluctance to share more documents appears to indicate the answer is yes.

The issue in question is “central to Berenson v Biden, my new lawsuit against the @WhiteHouse and @Pfizer for allegedly conspiring to violate my First Amendment rights by coercing Twitter to ban me,” Berenson tweeted. He also referred to Missouri v. Biden, which alleged multiple collusion plots between Big Tech platforms and the government to censor free speech. The still-secret documents apparently “troubled” Twitter’s lawyers so much they “advised Twitter to settle my suit rather than risk them becoming public - even if the company had to agree to most of my demands.”

While Berenson wrote that Twitter originally “encouraged” his critical coverage of the COVID-19 narrative, pressure from the Biden administration and other government officials in 2021 seems to have changed that. Berenson’s widely-read account was banned over COVID-19 vaccine critiques, and he sued Twitter for breaking its own rules four months later.

While Twitter restored Berenson’s account and admitted error in a humiliating settlement, no explanation of the original ban was forthcoming. Berenson now argues that’s because the argument wouldn’t hold up in court.

“The company faced a stark choice, [associate director for litigation Micah] Rubbo concluded in analyzing a potential settlement: ‘Are we willing to litigate and risk the potential public disclosure of *many* documents in order to prevent disclosure of some of them now?’” Even Twitter reportedly didn’t know all the documents’ contents. Twitter pondered and rejected a higher money offer to him, Berenson noted.

Ultimately, the secret documents showed “debate and disagreement” in Twitter leadership over the Berenson ban, per the emails. Twitter’s Trust and Safety (T&S) unit, the censorship decision makers, also had internal dissent.

Twitter apparently recognized that censoring Berenson’s free speech was wrong. Did it do so at the explicit behest of the federal government? Time may tell.

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