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Yesterday, we filed an antitrust lawsuit against some of the world’s biggest media companies for illegally colluding to silence competing rival news publishers who challenge their own views about COVID-19 in the online market.
Plaintiffs include ourselves (Ty and Charlene Bollinger), Children’s Health Defense, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Dr. Ben Tapper, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Ben Swann, Jim Hoft, Erin Elizabath Finn, Trialsite, Inc., and Destructive Media, LLC.
The defendants are The Washington Post Co., The British Broadcasting Corp., the Associated Press, and Reuters.
Here’s what you need to know:
In 2019, some of the world’s largest news publishers and internet companies created the Trusted News Initiative, or TNI.
Founded by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), its Legacy Media members include the Washington Post, Reuters, and the Associated Press. These news conglomerates partnered with the biggest companies in tech and social media, including Meta (which owns and controls Facebook and Instagram), Google (which owns and controls YouTube), Microsoft (which owns and controls LinkedIn), and Twitter.
Together, these companies control at least 85% of the online social media news market, 90% of the overall social media market, 90% of the social networking market, 75% of the video hosting market, and 95% of the search-engine market.
Members of the TNI have worked together to exclude from the world’s dominant internet platforms rival news publishers who engage in reporting that challenges and competes with TNI members’ reporting on certain issues relating to COVID-19 and U.S. politics.
But what these companies call a “partnership,” Federal antitrust law calls a “group boycott.” It is a violation of the Sherman Act and it is illegal.
While the “Trusted News Initiative” publicly purports to be a self-appointed “truth police” eradicating online “misinformation,” in fact it has suppressed wholly accurate and legitimate reporting in furtherance of the economic self-interest of its members.
TNI members deemed the following to be “misinformation” that could not be published on the world’s dominant Internet platforms:
1 | Claims that COVID originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China
2 | Claims that the COVID vaccines do not prevent infection
3 | Claims that vaccinated persons can transmit COVID to others
4 | Claims that compromising emails and videos were found on a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden.
All of these claims are either true or — at the very least — up for debate and well within the bounds of reasonable reporting.
The TNI not only prevented internet users from making these claims; it shut down online news publishers who simply reported that such claims were being made by credible sources like scientists and physicians.
More than three-quarters of a century ago, in 1945, the Supreme Court held that when news organizations combine to restrain what other, rival news suppliers can publish, antitrust law and the First Amendment speak with one voice in condemning such combinations.
When the Associated Press was sued for preventing non-members from publishing certain stories, they claimed that their conduct was protected by the First Amendment. But the Supreme Court stopped that argument dead in its tracks.
“That Amendment,” said the Court, “rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society. Surely a command that the government itself shall not impede the free flow of ideas does not afford nongovernmental combinations a refuge if they impose restraints upon that constitutionally guaranteed freedom.
Freedom to publish means freedom for all, and not for some. Freedom to publish is guaranteed by the Constitution, but freedom to combine to keep others from publishing is not. Freedom of the press from governmental interference under the First Amendment does not sanction repression of that freedom by private interests.”
The TNI was expressly formed to “impede the free flow of ideas,” to “keep others from publishing,” and to stifle “the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources.”
Justice Learned Hand went on to write this about the news industry:
“…that industry serves one of the most vital of all general interests: the dissemination of news from as many different sources, and with as many different facets and colors as is possible. That interest is closely akin to, if indeed it is not the same as, the interest protected by the First Amendment; it presupposes that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues, than through any kind of authoritative selection.”
Justice Felix Frankfurter concurred, adding that:
“A public interest so essential to the vitality of our democratic government may be defeated by private restraints no less than by public censorship, and such private restraints are unreasonable because they offend the basic functions which a constitutionally guaranteed free press serves in our nation.”
These companies admitted that they were protecting their own self interests. In March of 2022, Jamie Agnus, the Senior News Controller for BBC News (TNI’s founding member) said the following:
“Of course the members of the Trusted News Initiative are rivals. But in a crisis situation like this, absolutely, organizations have to focus on the things they have in common, rather than their commercial rivalries. It’s important that trusted news providers club together. Because actually the real rivalry now is not between for example the BBC and CNN globally, it’s actually between all trusted news providers and a tidal wave of unchecked [reporting] that’s being piped out mainly through digital platforms. That’s the real competition now in the digital media world. Of course organizations will always compete against one another for audiences. But the existential threat I think is that overall breakdown in trust, so that trusted news organizations lose in the long term if audiences just abandon the idea of a relationship of trust with news organizations. So actually we’ve got a lot more to hold us together than we have to work in competition with one another.”
The TNI was spearheaded by legacy news organizations, like the companies named in our lawsuit, fearful of what they themselves described as an “existential threat” to their economic survival: the explosion online of thousands of new, rival sources of news threatening to take audience share away from traditional news organizations and to undermine consumers’ trust in those organizations.
Noting the enormous market share held by Big Tech firms such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, the lawsuit states, “The TNI’s Big Tech members are ‘platform gatekeepers’ in the online news market, with the power to cripple or destroy publishers by excluding them from their platforms.”
TNI’s legacy news partners took advantage of their cooperation with each other and with Big Tech, to “choke off” inconvenient narratives, the lawsuit alleges.
For instance, TNI members agreed in early 2020 that their “ground-breaking collaboration” would target online news relating to COVID-19 and that TNI members would work together to ensure that harmful disinformation myths are stopped in their tracks and jointly combat fraud and misinformation about the virus.
In July 2020, TNI extended its collaboration to cover so-called “disinformation” about the United States presidential election, stating it was “committed to a shared early warning system of rapid alerts to combat the spread of disinformation during the U.S. presidential election.”
And in 2020 and 2021, the BBC’s Jessica Cecil, then-head of the TNI, made a series of statements, including a claim that TNI was “the only place in the world where disinformation is discussed in real time” and that its partners sought to find “practical ways to choke off” stories and topics TNI deemed “misinformation.”
And that’s how they were able to swiftly and effectively remove competing ideas and information from the public conversation.
Although the TNI calls the Prohibited Claims “misinformation,” the Prohibited Claims have included many assertions that were and are not in fact false, but rather either demonstrably true or, at the very least, open to legitimate debate and well within the bounds of robust news coverage.
Prohibited Reporting has included the following claims deemed “misinformation” by one or more TNI members:
1 | Claims that COVID-19 was manmade
2 | Claims that COVID-19 was manufactured or bioengineered
3 | Claims that COVID-19 was created by a government or country
4 | Claims that “contradict” WHO or U.S. health officials’ guidance on the treatment, prevention, or transmission of COVID-19
5 | Claims about the COVID vaccines that contradict “expert consensus” from U.S.
health authorities or the WHO
6 | Claims that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID
7 | Claims that ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID
8 | Claims that hydroxychloroquine and/or ivermectin are safe to use as a treatment for COVID
9 | Recommending the use of hydroxychloroquine and/or ivermectin against COVID-19
10 | Claims that COVID is no more dangerous to some populations than the seasonal flu
11 | Claims that the mortality rate of COVID is for some populations the same or lower than that of the seasonal flu
12 | Claims suggesting that the number of deaths caused by COVID is lower than official figures assert
13 | Claims that face masks or mask mandates do not prevent the spread of COVID
14 | Claims that wearing a face mask can make the wearer sick
15 | Claims that COVID vaccines have not been approved
16 | Claims that social distancing does not help prevent the spread of COVID
17 | Claims that COVID-19 vaccines can kill or seriously harm people
18 | Claims that the immunity from getting COVID is more effective than vaccination
19 | Claims that the COVID vaccines are not effective in preventing infection
20 | Claims that people who have been vaccinated against COVID can still spread the disease to others
21 | Claims that the COVID vaccines are toxic or harmful or contain toxic or harmful ingredients
23 | Claims that fetal cells were used in the manufacture or production of any of the COVID vaccines
24 | Claims that a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden was found at a computer repair store in or around October, 2020 or that the contents reportedly found on that laptop, including potentially compromising emails, videos, and photographs, were authentic
Take another look at the list above. The majority of these claims have been proven to be true. The remainder are certainly up for debate, as there isn’t nearly enough evidence to debunk them. Numbers 4 and 5 prohibit literally any guidance or information that contradicts the official guidance or consensus from health officials.
But these health officials have been wrong time and time again.
They told us that the shots would prevent you from getting COVID-19. They told us that the shots would prevent the transmission of COVID-19. They counted every death in people who tested positive for COVID-19 (or anyone they believed was infected) as mortality from the virus itself. They told us that there was no evidence that vitamin D, quercetin, hydroxychloroquine, zinc, or ivermectin could help combat the virus. They told us that masking would prevent infection. They told us that kids and healthy adults under 60 were at significant risk of hospitalization and death.
These were all lies.
The fact that this supposed “misinformation,” banned and suppressed through the TNI partnership, was not in fact misinformation and would instead have been deemed by any independent objective analyst to be legitimate reporting or expression of opinion on matters of the highest public importance confirms that the TNI’s Platform Members were acting in concert, rather than independently assessing accuracy. Further, it demonstrates the harmfulness of suppressing competition in the marketplace of ideas. Finally, it underscores the pretextuality of the TNI’s purported “truth-police” justification for its group boycott.
The impact of this illegal, coordinated effort to remove us and others from the virtual public square expands far beyond the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. How many other information providers remained quiet for fear of retribution by Big Tech and Legacy Media? How many other companies refused to work with independent publishers because of the TNI’s coordinated slander campaign?
Case in point, companies like Paypal, Stripe, Venmo, and Mailchimp froze and seized funds for several of us, while many more terminated our accounts without any explanation. All following the concerted attacks from the TNI.
This cost companies like ours millions upon millions of dollars – revenue that we rely on to pay our employees, operate our websites, and produce books, shows, articles, videos, podcasts, and so on.
Make no mistake: the Trusted News Initiative succeeded in their goals. They obliterated our ability to reach our existing audience, be discovered by new audiences, and fund the projects that have defined our mission.
For those of you who have been following our coverage of the Twitter Files, the revelation that social media giants dramatically changed the way they operate over the past few years is not a surprise.
For example, Twitter’s CEO as well as its general counsel once proclaimed Twitter “the free speech wing of the free speech movement,” and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared as late as October, 2019, “I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 percent true.”
But shortly thereafter, that’s exactly the world people came to live in.
Facebook, Google, and Twitter all commenced viewpoint-based censorship of reporting about the lab-leak hypothesis of COVID’s origins. Reporting about the lab-leak hypothesis was banned from all these platforms (unless the reporting condemned that hypothesis as “debunked,” “racist,” a “conspiracy theory,” and so on).
Strikingly, all three platforms not only banned the claim that COVID was deliberately created at a virology lab in or near Wuhan, China; they also banned the wholly plausible claim that COVID was accidentally created and released from a virology lab in or near Wuhan, China.
Even more shocking, all three platforms not only banned users from making these claims; they blocked news publishers from reporting that such claims were being made by scientists and other credible sources, thereby depriving the public of important news, information, and critical, diverse viewpoints.
The Truth About Cancer (along with The Truth About Vaccines) were attacked swiftly and vigorously by the TNI’s members. All on the grounds of what they had deemed “misinformation.” Here’s just a sampling of that censorship:
We were de-platformed from five Twitter channels, each of which had tens of thousands of followers, shortly after March 30, 2021. (We are still waiting to be reinstated on Twitter following Elon Musk’s purchase of the company. You can help by tweeting @elonmusk and asking him to reinstate us.)
- The Truth About Vaccines account was de-platformed from Instagram on March 25, 2021.
- Our personal Instagram accounts were de-platformed on October 21, 2021.
- The Truth About Vaccines channel was de-platformed from YouTube on May 17,2021.
- The Truth About Cancer channel, which had more than 200,000 subscribers and more than 40 million views, was de-platformed from YouTube on July 22, 2021.
- The Truth About Vaccines account was de-platformed from Vimeo on May 13, 2022.
We continue to be heavily shadow-banned on Facebook and can no longer effectively communicate with our millions of followers. (At the bottom of this page, you can find a list of our alternative social media accounts as well as a way to join our email list. Currently, these are the ONLY outlets you can use to access our content.)
The formation of the TNI was motivated by economic fear, and the TNI’s censorship activity is intended to suppress, disadvantage, and damage rival news publishing, while supposedly bolstering the claim made by all TNI members to be “trusted news” providers.
The TNI boycott blocked stories and facts that, by undermining the credibility of TNI reporting, would have done reputational and market damage to TNI members, demonstrating that Legacy News reporting is frequently unworthy of trust.
For these reasons, the TNI members specifically targeted us and all the others who have joined this lawsuit, each of whom are prominent publishers of original content in the online news submarkets. Additionally, they deterred numerous other online publishers from attempting to venture into those submarkets.
Moreover, the TNI’s group boycott had the purpose and effect of disparaging and destroying competing news publishers, in a deliberate attempt to paint TNI members as “trusted” news providers.
Furthermore, the TNI’s group boycott promoted widespread COVID vaccination, while undermining alternative COVID treatments, helping to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in profits to vaccine manufacturers and other large pharmaceutical companies, which in turn pay the TNI Big Tech Members billions of dollars for advertising.
Here’s the Truth:
The American people have lost trust in these legacy news corporations because they have failed to report the truth. This has been abundantly evident since the emergence of COVID-19, when companies like the BBC, Associated Press, and others have dutifully regurgitated the script passed down by their overlords in the pharmaceutical industry.
They repeatedly spouted lies about the efficacy of the vaccines, convincing Americans that this shot was not only safe, but it was essential for protecting their fellow Americans. We now know that the shot is NOT safe, does NOT stop infection, and does NOT prevent transmission.
Worse, they rigorously slandered and censored life-saving information about the virus and early treatment interventions that could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. They then crossed an unforgivable line by convincing the uninformed public that their children needed to receive these dangerous, ineffective shots in order to stay safe.
That’s why we’re taking these corporations to task in a court of law.
We are angry. We are heartbroken. And we are resolved.
Unlike tech and legacy media, we aren’t beholden to the pharmaceutical industry. We have one simple goal: to share the truth with as many people as we possibly can so that they can make the most informed decisions about their health and the health of their families.
This lawsuit isn’t just about antitrust violations.
It’s not just about lost audiences and revenue.
It’s not just about the First Amendment.
It’s about life and death.
These companies directly contributed to the deaths of thousands of people.
We’re going to hold them accountable.
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