Feminist's Lawsuit Against Twitter the First of Many, Lawyers Say
On Monday, feminist journalist Meghan Murphy filed a lawsuit against Twitter, accusing the social media company of breach of contract, broken promises, and unfair competition. Twitter had permanently banned Murphy over her tweets disagreeing with transgender identity. Her lawsuit is merely the first of many, lawyers told PJ Media.
"I believe this is just one of many lawsuits that will be coming down the road against these social media censors," Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, told PJ Media on Wednesday. "Whether by litigation or legislation, this censorship will ultimately end."
Staver told PJ Media, "We know of several organizations that are considering lawsuits. I think, frankly, people are fed up with the censorship of these social media platforms."
Noah Peters, one of the lawyers representing Meghan Murphy in her lawsuit, said he has received almost daily messages from people claiming to be suing Twitter or interested in joining a lawsuit like Murphy's. "I get emails and messages pretty much every day," he said. He paraphrased the messages: "'I'm suing Twitter also, please make this a class-action.'" Murphy's lawsuit is not a class-action, however.
"From my perspective, it's a pretty open and shut breach of contract and misleading advertising case," Peters told PJ Media. (The lawsuit, Murphy's YouTube video, and other resources can be found at MeghanMurphyLawsuit.com. Visitors can also donate to her legal fund there.)
Twitter has dismissed the lawsuit. "Twitter believes Ms. Murphy's claims are meritless and will vigorously defend itself against this suit," a company spokesperson told PJ Media.
Twitter's user agreement constitutes a binding contract with its users, and the agreement promises users that changes "will not be retroactive." It also promises, "Other than for changes addressing new functions or made for legal reasons, we will notify you 30 days in advance of making effective changes to these Terms ... for example via a service notification or an email to the email associated with your account."
Furthermore, in sworn public testimony before the House of Representatives, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, "We don't consider political viewpoints, perspectives, or party affiliation in any of our policies or enforcement decisions, period. ... Our policies and our algorithms don't take into consideration any affiliation, philosophy, or viewpoint."
Yet, when Twitter banned Meghan Murphy, it violated those promises. In October 2018, Twitter changed its hateful conduct policy to ban "misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals." "Misgendering" involves referring to a person by a pronoun other than the one he or she has chosen. "Deadnaming" involves referring to a transgender individual by his or her given name, rather than a name chosen later that reflects their gender identity.
These rules discriminate on the basis of political viewpoint, as they force individuals to adhere to the gender identity ideology. According to a 2017 Pew Research poll, 54 percent of the American public thinks that someone is a man or a woman as determined by biological sex, not gender identity.
When Twitter introduced this ban, it did not send an email 30 days in advance. Furthermore, the ban on misgendering was discovered and reported on the day after Murphy was banned.
Twitter locked the feminist journalist's account on November 15, forcing her to remove a tweet from October 11 stating "Men aren't women." The same day, Twitter demanded she delete another tweet from October 15 that asked, "How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?"
In response, Murphy called Twitter out on this "f**king bulls***," adding, "I'm not allowed to say that men aren't women or ask questions about the notion of transgenderism at all anymore? That a multi billion dollar company is censoring BASIC FACTS and silencing people who ask questions about this dogma is INSANE." This tweet received 20,000 likes, and Twitter forced her to delete it four days later.
On November 23, Twitter banned Meghan Murphy permanently, citing a November 8 tweet where the journalist wrote "Yeeeah it's him" over an image of a Google review of a waxing salon posted by Jonathan Yaniv five months earlier.
According to Twitter, Meghan Murphy had "misgendered" Yaniv by calling him a man. Yet Yaniv's review included a picture of him appearing entirely male. Yaniv went by the male name "Jonathan Yaniv" on several public social media profiles, including LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Furthermore, Yaniv is a provocateur. In the past year, he filed 16 human rights complaints against waxing studios, claiming they discriminated against him based on his male genitalia. As the lawsuit explains, "Murphy was disturbed by Yaniv's attempts to use the legal system to coerce female estheticians, by threat of lawsuit, into doing something that makes them feel profoundly uncomfortable and violates their basic autonomy." One single mother esthetician had to pay Yaniv $2,500 to have a complaint withdrawn.
To make matters worse, after the Twitter ban, Yaniv bragged, "I personally got her Twitter account suspended."
In this case, Twitter violated its contracts and its promises, even applying its rules retroactively, Murphy's lawyer, Noah Peters, told PJ Media.
"It seems like individuals, for reasons that we don't know, seem to have special access to Twitter Safety and can get people banned," Peters said. He noted that since Murphy's suspension, many users have tweeted, "Men aren't women," but they have not been blocked.
"They clearly chose to ban Murphy, make her the first person who was permanently banned under this policy, rather than Ben Shapiro" or any other person who is outspoken against transgender identity.
"The public wants, the public deserves, answers on this," the lawyer said. "We want to know, and I think we're entitled to know, why was she banned. Why were these other people not banned?"
Peters underscored the importance of this censorship issue. "This is not a trivial thing. This is our public debate: Every presidential candidate, every representative, every senator has a Twitter account."
The lawsuit does not seek a specific dollar amount in damages. The lawyer noted that Meghan Murphy is "not seeking any monetary relief," but rather an injunction "banning Twitter from enacting or enforcing viewpoint discriminatory policies." She wants a court to make Twitter keep its word.
Megan Murphy's lawsuit focuses on these kinds of claims due to certain immunities Twitter enjoys under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Peters told PJ Media. "There are other claims we could bring if not for Section 230."
National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), an association of Christian communicators with a combined audience of 60 million, has urged Congress to revise Section 230 in order to hold companies like Twitter accountable for their censorship of users.
“We are grateful for every effort to bring attention to the growing — and by now indisputable — problem of the censorship of viewpoints that are out of favor in Silicon Valley," NRB Vice President of communications James A. Smith Sr. told PJ Media on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to Twitter’s willingness to suppress ideas and opinions that run counter to its corporate values."
"The continued censorship of Christian and conservative beliefs is validation of our conviction that it’s time for Congress to carefully evaluate the ‘Good Samaritan’ protections in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act enjoyed by Big Tech," Smith concluded.
If Congress amends Section 230, lawsuits like Meghan Murphy's will not just multiply — they'll become even more devastating. Unlike Meghan Murphy's lawsuit, they may also involve hefty monetary damages. Twitter had better clean up its act, and fast.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.