In Oct. 2020, Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai posted four screenshots on Twitter from a collection of emails that allegedly showed Secretary of State William Francis Galvin and Elections Director Michelle Tassinari admitting that the state had deleted ballot images, violating federal law. According to the law in Massachusetts, those images should have been preserved for 22 months. As a result of Shiva’s post, he was suspended from Twitter and then ultimately banned permanently in February. On Nov. 20, Shiva filed a lawsuit and an emergency preliminary injunction against Secretary of State William Francis Galvin for deleting the ballot images.
This historic lawsuit has become a much bigger matter than deleted ballot images. Shiva had run in the primary with strong grassroots backing to the tune of $2 million for a U.S. Senate seat in September and lost. He maintains to this day that he should have won in a landslide. He has also filed a One Person, One Vote lawsuit, allegedly exposing computer algorithms used to steal the election from him.
Shiva won in the predominately hand-counted county, Franklin County; however, in every other county, he lost. During that time, he had been “hitting hard” on Twitter about election fraud, which he maintains he can prove, and none of his tweets were taken down. However, the minute he posted his first round of tweets about the deleted ballot images in October, he was suspended.
His second lawsuit is now a historic First Amendment case because, according to Shiva, the most important speech we have, political speech, has been—and is being—violated by the government of the United States through their social media proxies. He alleges that it wasn’t Twitter, a private entity, who took him down but, rather, it was the government who ordered Twitter to take Shiva off their platform.
Shiva declares, “We’ve been taught by media and, in fact, even politicians, that it is Big Tech or Twitter which independently throws people off their platforms. That’s been the narrative…and Twitter’s position is that they are a private actor and, as a private actor, they also have first amendment rights, so they have every right to throw people off because they are protected by Section 230.”
Shiva believes that his lawsuit will become the “lawsuit of the century” because he can prove that the government has violated his constitutional rights by colluding with Twitter to suppress his political speech—based on factual evidence of the deleted ballot images, not opinion, that Shiva posted on the platform. “Political speech,” Shiva says, “Is the most protected speech in the United States Constitution. I wasn’t just some random person,” he continued, “I was running for federal U.S. Senate seat at the time.”
No lawyer in the state of Massachusetts wanted to take his first amendment case on, so he filed the $1.2 billion case on his own in federal court with Judge Wolf presiding. Judge Wolf was the judge who “ordered the FBI to publicly disclose the bureau’s relationship with Bulger and Flemmi and to turn over its informant file.”
Shiva also filed an emergency preliminary injunction to request from the court a return to Twitter immediately. Shiva had used Twitter, a “primarily political” social media platform, to build his following organically to over 350,000 followers. He was effectively shut down, to his great detriment, during a period of time when he needed the platform most to communicate and raise money. The removal of Twitter from his use also shut off a primary platform from which Shiva could communicate his claims of election fraud to his fellow citizens.
Judge Wolf wanted him to argue the Blum v Yaretzky test to prove that “state action took place.” In other words, did the government, not Twitter, take action against Shiva using Twitter as cover. During the hearing, the court was able to “elicit from the Communications Director from the government…that the government has a Trusted Twitter Partnership…it is like they have an AMEX Black Card, preferential treatment…and they have a portal that has been established for the government to report on people like me—people who supposedly spread ‘misinformation’.”
The government of Massachusetts had contacted Twitter directly as well as the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), which is also a state organization. Michelle Tassinari, the State Election Director, was also exposed by Shiva because she was about to become the President of the NASED. The NASED also contacted Twitter through their “Trusted Twitter Partnership.” In November, Judge Wolf ordered that the state of Massachusetts and the NASED should no longer contact Twitter and “if you have a problem with Dr. Shiva, you will rebut him on Twitter”—a huge win for freedom of speech.
Shiva was back on Twitter again with his email posts by December; however, by February, he was completely de-platformed permanently by Twitter for showing a video with screenshots of the emails. It was at that time Judge Wolf asked Shiva to enjoin Twitter in the case. The lawsuit that enjoins Twitter can be found here.
On May 20, Twitter brought in its “heavyweight” lawyers, and the government brought in theirs—as did NASED. So, now it was Shiva, who is not a lawyer, against Goliath.
In the process of fighting the government, Dr. Shiva became more curious about this “Trusted Twitter Partnership,” so he began to dig. It turns out there is a secret portal through which the government can communicate with Twitter to target and report people like Dr. Shiva who “spread political misinformation.”
Shiva found on the night before his court hearing on May 20, “a document written by the Twitter Legal Counsel in the UK about what is called a Partner Support Portal (PSP) to enable the government to report on potential threats to Twitter. That same infrastructure was deployed in India, in the recent election, and also deployed in Taiwan and Australia and was brought here in 2020,” according to Shiva. Importantly, “the PSP portal is ONLY for government officials—separate but unequal,” according to Shiva.
He also found a set of playbooks on a server called the “Election Influence Operations Playbooks” for state and local officials. “This,” Shiva claims, “is not just a document. This is a standard operating procedure of censorship, of government using Twitter so that the government can launder censorship.” Twitter Legal and Michelle Tassinari are chief architects of the playbooks.
In the playbooks, the authors identify as “‘influence operators—an IO’ anyone who criticizes the government, or a political official of corruption is branded as an influence operator in the manual,” according to Shiva. “Let that sink in,” said Shiva in his most recent YouTube Live on Tuesday
According to Shiva, Harvard had invited all of the Defendants in his case to come in to help develop language found in the playbooks. The Defendants have repeatedly maintained that they have no association but, Shiva proved it in his May 20 hearing.
The Playbook sounds the censorship alarm on many levels. For example, in order to target individuals on Twitter, severity levels are assigned. “A section of the document identifies a High-Level Influence Operator as someone who has a huge following, whose tweets get retweeted, and who has an established voice,” according to Shiva. “At that level, you are removed and then still continue to be monitored. This is a RICO operation between Twitter, the government, and NASED—to launder censorship.”
Shiva points out that Governor Ron DeSantis is going about his freedom of speech lawsuit in the wrong way and will lose. DeSantis just signed the Stop Social Media Censorship Act into law on Tuesday.
Shiva says DeSantis needs to go after this as a government censorship issue, not a private platform/Twitter censorship issue. The government is “doing all the work, branding people like Shiva” as disinformation actors deliberately. “My lawsuit is historic,” says Shiva, “The Government gives Section 230 to Twitter, and Twitter gives the government a portal through which they censor citizens.”
According to Shiva, Judge Wolf took his case home the night of May 19 and returned to court feeling very troubled by Shiva’s evidence. Judge Wolf even assigned Shiva a constitutional lawyer to help him defend his case, and the state will fully fund the lawyer. Judge Wolf believes that this lawsuit is so important, it will be taught in every constitutional exam law course around the country for decades to come.