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Lawsuit Alleges a Conspiracy Between Top Level Current and Former Federal Officials, and Pfizer’s CEO to Censor Information Concerning Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Home-Blog-Freedom of Speech-Lawsuit Alleges a Conspiracy Between Top Level Current and Former Federal Officials, and Pfizer’s CEO to Censor Information Concerning Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Alex Berenson is a journalist who worked for the New York Times and The Denver Post.  When he worked for the New York Times, Berenson covered, among other things, the pharmaceutical industry.  When Berenson left the New York Times, he used Twitter and Substack to continue his work as a journalist.  Twitter played a crucial role in giving Berenson access to a large audience for his reporting.  Berenson alleges that his Twitter account was permanently suspended because powerful individuals within the federal government and at Pfizer were angry over his reporting on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.  Coordination by top federal officials and powerful private companies to censor political critics poses a significant threat to First Amendment rights and the trust individuals have in government institutions.

Berenson’s complaint alleges an effort to censor his reporting on the limitations and potential adverse side effects of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.  While Berenson’s complaint is seventy pages long and quotes a number of internal emails he obtained from Twitter, the alleged facts in the complaint are, at this time, only allegations.  If these allegations are true, however, they present some insight into how the federal government worked with private individuals to censor important information about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccination to limit opposition to the vaccine mandates that President Biden implemented.  Pfizer also had a significant monetary interest in censoring unflattering facts concerning its COVID-19 vaccine.  Pfizer could make billions of dollars from the vaccine mandates.

Berenson’s reporting raised many questions about the ability of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to prevent people from becoming infected with COVID-19 and transmitting it to others.  Berenson’s reporting was based on different sources that included, for example, Pfizer’s own clinical trials, and clinical data from other countries that had high vaccination rates with Pfizer’s vaccine.  Berenson’s posts generated considerable controversy, but Twitter had repeatedly rebuffed requests to censor Berenson’s account.  When the Biden administration began pushing for vaccine mandates, the calls to censor Berenson’s reporting increased and were successful, at least for a period of time.

A critical element of Berenson’s claim is that Twitter had repeatedly reviewed his prior posts and concluded that they did not violate Twitter’s terms of service.  With the implementation of the vaccine mandates, however, the White House, a Pfizer board member, the Surgeon General, and others ramped up the calls for the censorship of information critical of the COVID-19 vaccines.  Berenson’s reporting was expressly singled out for censorship.  Berenson alleges that because his reporting was based on clinical studies, it was particularly effective in challenging the White House and Pfizer’s narratives about the COVID-19 vaccines.  Put differently, Berenson was a censorship target precisely because his reporting was factual, as opposed to accounts that pushed wild conspiracy theories concerning the vaccines that the White House was not, allegedly, concerned about.

Despite Twitter’s prior refusals to take action against Berenson’s reporting, pressure from the White House, Pfizer and others ultimately caused Twitter to issue “strikes” against Berenson’s posts that resulted in the permanent suspension of his Twitter account.  Berenson claims that he was not told how his posts violated Twitter’s terms of service.  Berenson sued Twitter for his suspension and ultimately Twitter agreed to settle the lawsuit.  One term of the settlement was the reinstatement of Berenson’s account.

While Berenson’s account was ultimately reinstated by Twitter, he was silenced for an appreciable period of time right when information concerning the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines was particularly important.  The actions taken against Berenson would also chill speech by others, by sending a message to commentators, journalists, medical researchers and others that comments that are critical of the COVID-19 vaccines are not permitted.  This outcome is bad enough.  It is much more serious here, however, because it is now fairly well established that the COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent transmission of the virus and do not prevent individuals from getting sick. Indeed, there is some evidence that the clinical trials conducted by Pfizer were not even structured to test whether Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine would prevent transmission of the virus.  The irony is that censoring Berenson to prevent vaccine hesitancy ignores the reality that telling people incorrectly that a vaccine prevented the transmission of the virus also puts people at risk as well as potentially increasing vaccine hesitancy.

If the White House was concerned about the accuracy of Berenson’s reporting, it certainly had the ability to communicate its own information about the COVID-19 vaccines, as did Pfizer, and many other organizations and individuals.  Indeed, people were inundated with information claiming that the COVID-19 vaccines were safe and effective.  It is a reasonable inference that the efforts to silence Berenson were driven by a concern that he was making well-supported arguments that were not easy to refute.

While censorship has many negative consequences, it is also illegal, under the First Amendment, when the federal government is involved.  The federal government has the right to convey its own messages and information.  Given the First Amendment right to freedom of speech by members of the public and the critical importance of these rights, the federal government should not use others to censor speech.  Additionally, the federal government should not even encourage censorship by private actors.  Hopefully, Berenson’s lawsuit will proceed, and we will all learn more about the efforts by the White House and Pfizer to censor speech.

The fundamental right of freedom of speech empowers us to express ourselves, challenge ideas, and foster a culture of open dialogue. It is the cornerstone of a thriving democracy, encouraging progress and change. When the federal government interferes with this right, the effects can be detrimental. If you believe your right to free speech has been violated, it is essential to enlist the help of a reputable civil rights attorney. The Law Office of George M. Sanders is here to help.

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