We grew up knowing our parents would punish us if we did something wrong. If it involved lying or picking on a playmate, we'd have to apologize for it. So, how about applying the same notion to Big Tech and Big Media?
More and more people who feel unfairly characterized or canceled by these two public opinion influencer groups are turning to the grownup version of punishment: the lawsuit.
The latest such suits were filed by James O'Keefe, the conservative founder of the investigative reporting group Project Veritas.
The backstory: In February, two Twitter accounts associated with Project Veritas were permanently canceled for what the site called "repeated violations of privacy." More recently, O'Keefe's personal Twitter account was permanently yanked.
The first ban came after Project Veritas leaked video clips of a meeting with Facebook executives called to discuss the platform's censorship policy. Then, one of Project Veritas' reporters confronted Facebook's Guy Rosen, the vice president of integrity, outside his home and asked for further clarification. Visible in the background were the address numbers on Rosen's house, but no street name was seen. Is this a violation of privacy?
In April, another banishment came after O'Keefe used his personal account to announce Project Veritas' #ExposeCNN campaign. He released undercover video of a CNN employee, technical director Charles Chester, admitting that the network's news coverage is tainted by liberal politics. Chester was filmed saying the network deliberately aired anti-President Trump "propaganda" to "get Trump out of office," played up the COVID-19 death toll "for ratings" and ran stories "trying to help" the Black Lives Matter movement.
Twitter then permanently banned O'Keefe, saying he violated rules by misleading people and "operating fake accounts" that "artificially amplify or disrupt conversations." Just how releasing videos of a CNN staffer describing the network's inner workings constitutes a disruption of conversation isn't clear, and Twitter did not identify any fake accounts O'Keefe operated.
O'Keefe's lawsuit says Twitter's accusations are "extremely damaging to his reputation" and amount to libel. He's also suing CNN because anchor Ana Cabrera erroneously reported the ban on Project Veritas came as part of a "crackdown to try to stop the spread of misinformation."
"Perhaps the greatest irony here is everyone in the media accuses us of misinformation when that is precisely what they do," O'Keefe said, and he vowed not to back down.
"We don't settle," O'Keefe said about the dual lawsuits. "We fight all the way to a jury verdict, and we have never lost."
Case in point, last week, a New York Supreme Court judge handed Project Veritas a major victory in its defamation fight against The New York Times.
Last year, Project Veritas (Latin for "truth") published an investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Minneapolis. It featured online selfie-videos made by a Somali American campaign worker bragging about illegally harvesting hundreds of absentee ballots spread out on the dashboard of his car. They also interviewed others, including a well-connected political consultant in the Somali American community who said there was widespread corruption among that "clan" in Minneapolis. In a series of articles, the Times declared the videos were deliberately "deceptive," part of a "coordinated disinformation campaign" against Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar and relied on "unidentified sources" (an odd claim for a newspaper that frequently uses unnamed sources). O'Keefe insists those statements were libelous and defamed his reputation.
Last week, the newspaper asked the New York Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit, but Judge Charles Wood ruled that the Times might very well have committed "actual malice" and shown "reckless disregard" for the truth. He declared the suit will go forward.
Does Project Veritas engage in controversial techniques? Unconventional, maybe. But this is a group that dares to report what other news organizations don't. If someone is flagrantly violating voter laws, I want to know about it. If Facebook, Twitter, CNN and others in the public square routinely show bias against certain schools of thought, I want to know about that, too. Who appointed them as the arbiters of civic discourse?
I want to read and learn about all sorts of viewpoints and then decide for myself what to believe and what to dismiss. It's high time someone turned to the courts to determine what constitutes biased reporting and publishing and what doesn't.