by Greg Piper
The Biden administration is using “threats, pressure, inducement, and coercion” to censor social media groups for COVID-19 vaccine injuries and prevent them from raising money, according to a new First Amendment lawsuit based in part on legal discovery from ongoing state-led litigation.
Plaintiffs Brianne Dressen, Shaun Barcavage, Kristi Dobbs, Nikki Holland and Suzanna Newell allege they “suffered –and continue to experience – serious and debilitating medical injuries within days (and, in many cases, hours)” of COVID vaccination. And plaintiff Ernest Ramirez says his 16-year-old son died of cardiac arrest five days after the boy’s first Pfizer dose.
Their speech about their suffering has “repeatedly been flagged as misinformation or removed entirely” by Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and Vimeo, “while their social media accounts are at constant risk of being frozen or disabled,” the suit state.
The censorship goes beyond social media, with GoFundMe shutting down Ramirez’s fundraising page and keeping the money he already raised to travel to Washington, D.C. to speak about his son’s death, he claims.
Facebook added a “partly false” label to his photo standing next to his son’s casket, while Twitter removed it and told him to only share “reliable information.”
Dressen co-founded vaccine-injury group React19, whose legal affairs director, Chris Dreisbach, told Just the News last fall that the group had met with dozens of Democrat and Republican lawmakers or their staff to discuss improvements to the federal vaccine-injury compensation systems.
But React19 has struggled to raise money due to the chronic censorship of groups administered by its board members, the suit states. When Dressen appealed Vimeo’s removal of a video with personal injury stories, the YouTube competitor permanently deleted React19’s account by alleging the claims were “not substantiated” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The plaintiffs are represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which represents censored doctors in related litigation by Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general Andrew Bailey and Jeff Landry.
They are “not anti-vaxxers,” the alliance says in a press release, noting Dressen volunteered in trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine and Ramirez received a Moderna vaccine “without incident.”
Even if injuries are “rare, further research is necessary to establish the incidence of serious, even fatal, side effects for these still-new vaccines,” the public interest law firm said. NCLA shared with Just the News examples of censored or labeled posts.
COVID vaccine injuries are increasingly a subject of mainstream public discussion.
The British Medical Journal published research this month finding a 25-28% risk of severe vaginal bleeding for boosted postmenopausal women, based on nearly 3 million medically diagnosed Swedish women.
Bailey and Landry filed a 364-page “proposed findings of fact” in March that cites depositions and internal communications of current and former federal officials. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty greenlighted the suit to continue later that month, calling it well-pleaded.
“Defendants’ own words, documents from Twitter and the government itself, along with discovery” in the AGs’ suit, chronicle “in staggering detail” how the feds outsource censorship of speech that raises concerns about COVID vaccines’ safety and efficacy and “extent and severity of side effects,” the new suit says.
Newly added: the Stanford Internet Observatory, its director Alex Stamos and research manager Renee DiResta, whom Stamos has said “worked for the CIA.” SIO’s Virality Project “expressly admits that it works closely with federal government agencies and officials” to censor purported COVID mis- and disinformation and “seeks to develop even closer ties,” making SIO “a de facto government agent,” the suit alleges.
The Virality Project does not limit its activities to objectively false claims, but also “true medical injuries and adverse health effects from the Covid vaccine” when “shared absent context” or “employed to push back against vaccine mandates,” the suit says.
For example, SIO faulted Dressen for sharing her injury without “a proven causal link to the vaccine” but omitted that the National Institutes of Health confirmed her “persistent neurological symptoms” were related.
Just as Facebook pledged to remove “often-true content” under pressure from White House official Flaherty, the Meta-owned platform took down private support groups that shared a link to a press conference with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) where victims including Dobbs and Dressen shared their stories, the suit says. One had nearly 2,000 members who could no longer communicate with each other.
YouTube took down a video featuring Newell and “a vaccine-injured friend” discussing how “the kindness of others had allowed them to maintain hope,” dubbing it misinformation despite making no vaccine claims, she alleges.
“For attempting simply to engage with others and to discuss their own pain, experiences, advice, and sources of hope,” the plaintiffs have faced censorship and accusations of lies and “inciting violence,” according to the suit.
TikTok repeatedly took down Holland’s personal videos as prohibited “violent and graphic content” and for “integrity and authenticity” concerns, while Facebook invoked its “standards on violence and incitement” when Dressen’s group mentioned vaccines and side effects — language that “leads to serious violence” or could “seriously injure or kill people.”
To censor support groups for victims of vaccine injuries is unimaginable & cruel.
11/2/2021 – I relive this day every day & I remember your sweet friend💜
You are an inspiration @BrianneDressen https://t.co/9VV9Vt8ztu pic.twitter.com/sCQYXu2KUu
— Brook Jackson 💜 (@IamBrookJackson) May 23, 2023
Plaintiffs say they often had to resort to code words. The support group run by Barcavage, whose adverse events substantially worsened after his second Pfizer dose, started calling vaccines “vee” in response to Facebook applying “misinformation” labels to its posts or removing them. Dressen said linking articles at Newsweek and Science have prompted Facebook misinformation flags and directions to visit the CDC website.
Google went to great lengths to suppress FDA testimony about Dressen’s “NIH-confirmed” injuries by her husband, Brian, a biochemist, after it received widespread media coverage, the suit alleges.
“Initially, the story trended on Google with over 87 news stories featuring his testimony” but that had shrunk to just five articles when she searched the “identical terms” four hours later, plantifs also allege.
Barcavage testified before the Senate about his vaccine injuries as well.
“When his family and fellow vaccine-injured individuals attempted to share his testimony on Facebook, the posts were removed as ‘misinformation,'” the suit says.
Neither the Justice Department, which represents the federal defendants, nor SIO’s Stamos responded to requests for comment on the litigation.
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Greg Piper has covered law and policy for nearly two decades, with a focus on tech companies, civil liberties and higher education.