Changizi v. HHS is a first-of-its-kind First Amendment lawsuit filed on March 24 by Attorney Jenin Younes against the federal government, specifically the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Columbus Division, on behalf of three plaintiffs; Dr. Mark Changizi, Attorney Michael Senger, and Human Rights Advocate Daniel Kotzin.
All three plaintiffs have been vocal contrarians on social media concerning the COVID-19 narrative. Dr. Mark Changizi is a theoretical cognitive scientist whose FreeX group platform and social media posts have called those who participate in the "COVID hysteria" to be participants in the COVID cult. Mr. Michael Senger is a San Francisco attorney who has written extensively on "the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on the world's response to COVID-19." The third is Human Rights Advocate Daniel Kotzin, who says he is not a "COVID denier", rather, he is a "lockdown denier." Incidentally, Kotzin is married to Levi's former President, Jennifer Sey, who recently resigned from the company after 21 years of service, "turning down a $1 million severance in exchange for her voice."
The lawsuit argues that U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and HHS have wrongfully "directed social media platforms, including Twitter, to censor alleged "misinformation" about COVID-19." Statements and actions taken by HHS resulted in a permanent ban on Twitter for Mr. Senger and temporary suspensions for Mr. Changizi and Mr. Kotzin allegedly because they failed to parrot the prevailing approved narratives being pushed by the Biden administration.
Changizi contends that he began to see a qualitative change in the impressions he received on Twitter in May of 2021, linking the significant suppression of his account to statements that indicated "a coordinated and escalating public campaign to stop the flow of purported "health misinformation" related to COVID-19."
In a substack post, Changizi shows a graph of the impressions that allegedly depict a "smoking gun on government censorship." Changizi believes that the government and big tech, Twitter, in this case, are colluding to suppress speech, particularly social media accounts with a broad reach.
The lawsuit alleges connections from a May 5, 2021 press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki, with the beginning of a campaign to suppress accounts that allegedly do not align with approved government messaging. In the press conference, Psaki stated that "major platforms have a responsibility to stop amplifying untrustworthy content, disinformation, and misinformation, especially related to COVID-19, vaccinations, and elections." Her complete statement on the subject, which is just one of her many, is captured below.
Jen Psaki/May 5, 2021, Press Conference
The NCLA lawsuit argues several vital points based on public statements and, most recently, a March 3 Request for Information (RFI) issued by the Surgeon General.
RFI/Surgeon General/March 3
The RFI requests that tech companies turn over by May 2, 2022, "information about individuals who spread such "misinformation." Younes says that this is "a clear intimidation tactic labeled as an RFI." Younes argues that
- Just because the Surgeon General is empowered to make rules and regulations that govern policies related to the health and welfare of Americans, it does not "permit him to determine what constitutes health "misinformation"; to order tech companies to censor such "misinformation," or to demand that these companies turn over private (or public) information gathered from users."
- The Biden administration has actively pursued suppression of free speech on digital platforms with its "countless statements." The lawsuit states:
"As made clear by countless statements of members of the Biden Administration, Defendants are utilizing tech companies to accomplish their goal of suppressing and eliminating from the public discourse viewpoints about COVID-19 that differ from the Government. That transforms Twitter's censorship of Plaintiffs into state action and violates their First Amendment Rights."
- Younes also says that the RFI constitutes a "warrantless search, violating the Fourth Amendment" when it demands from Twitter and other tech companies "private information about users who are deemed to be spreaders of 'misinformation.'"
On March 30, Younes applied for a preliminary injunction requesting a delay of the May 2 deadline for reporting because plaintiffs in the case will "suffer irreparable harm" if the deadline is not delayed. In an interview with Michael Farris, who regularly interviews a variety of well-known people on his Coffee and a Mike podcast, Younes explained that she requested the injunction, in part, to give her more time to research the complete history of government statements on the subject of controlled information. She also wants to allow discovery that would "[tie] Twitter censorship to the government, especially if there was any evidence that my clients were censored because of the government."
Younes also told Farris that even though Changizi and Kotzin still have social media accounts, their free speech continues to be significantly suppressed on social media platforms. Both have allegedly been severely deboosted and shadowbanned. Even though they still have accounts, Twitter employs malicious algorithms to bury their accounts, making it almost impossible to find and/or see their tweets and replies. For that reason, Younes says her clients still have standing in the lawsuit because there is an "atmosphere of censorship."
Younes also mentions that according to Psaki, users who violate speech rules on one platform should be banned on all platforms. She cites Psaki's statement in a July 16 press conference where Psaki asserted that "you shouldn't be banned from one platform and not others for providing misinformation." Psaki also openly encouraged "quality information algorithms" to suppress mis, dis, and mal-information. Quality information here is, arguably, "government speak" for speech that doesn't abide by the Biden administration's "free speech" rules.
Younes, who used to be much more left-leaning in her political beliefs, says that the last few years have convinced her to vote more conservatively. The erosion of free speech and the masking and forced vaccinations of children are issues she believes Democrats should pay dearly for in the 2022 election and beyond. Younes stated:
"This sort of censorship strikes at the heart of what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was designed to protect—free speech, especially political speech, much of which has later been vindicated as accurate by instrumentalizing tech companies, including Twitter—through pressure, coercion, and threats—to censor viewpoints that the federal executive has deemed "misinformation," the Surgeon General has turned Twitter's censorship into state action. The Government's policy of pressuring Twitter and other tech companies to censor the Plaintiffs should be halted immediately, and this RFI must be set aside."