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Alex Berenson sues Twitter for defamation in Irish court

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In an appropriately constituted legal system, Alex Berenson would be in jail rather than forum shopping for fun and profit, but apparently freedom’s just another word for it’s OK to kill a few hundred thousand people and counting with your lies, because as Don Corleone said it doesn’t make any difference to me how a man makes his living:

A US writer with controversial views on Covid-19 vaccines is suing Twitter for defamation in the Irish courts, after the social media giant permanently suspended his account.

Fox News contributor and former New York Times journalist Alex Berenson is just the latest in a series of foreign figures to choose Ireland as a venue for their defamation proceedings. 

Mr Berenson has opted to sue here, despite him living in New York.

His account was suspended in August last year for what Twitter deemed to be repeated violations of its Covid-19 misinformation rules.

The move came just a month after the US president’s chief medical officer Dr Anthony Fauci described comments made by Alex Berenson in relation to vaccine hesitancy as “horrifying”.

The US president also blamed social media companies for “killing people” by allowing vaccine hesitant posts.

In his lawsuit, Mr Berenson claims to have been defamed in statements published by Twitter online and issued to the press by a spokesman, which described his posts as misinformation.

His final tweet before his account was suspended claimed the coronavirus vaccine had “a limited window of efficacy and a terrible side-effect profile”.

Berenson remains a controversial figure. A profile piece by The Atlantic last year described him as “the pandemic’s wrongest man”.

It said he had made “the dubious case that most people would be better off avoiding” the vaccine.

However, in legal filings, Mr Berenson’s lawyers have maintained that he is a well-respected journalist, author and commentator on public health matters who is widely known and respected in Ireland.

Amusing detail: Berenson’s claim that he’s widely known and respected in Ireland is based primarily on this piece of evidence:

Mr Berenson gave a talk to the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in 2019 where he urged the State to reject the idea that cannabis can be considered a medicine.

This scumbag is suing in Ireland because apparently Ireland has much more plaintiff-friendly libel laws than the USA, where for the moment at least famous or famousish people can only win libel suits if they can show that the purported libel in question was published by someone who knew the statement was false, or who published it with “reckless disregard” for the truth.

This rule was established by a 1964 case called New York Times v. Sullivan. It’s a very inconvenient rule for plutocrats and fascists, so of course the reactionary wing on the current SCOTUS is itching to get rid of it.

As for Alex Berenson’s excellent Irish legal adventure, an LGM commenter points out the following:

Curious as to whether he’ll be required to post security for costs/attorney’s fees. If he’s not a resident of Ireland, or the EU, and lacks assets in Ireland that could be levied to pay Twitter’s attorneys fees, to which they’re entitled if he loses, he should be required to post a bond, or security as they call it for costs. Essentially the entire amount of Twitter’s likely reasonable defense cost.

Security for costs is not automatic, but if Twitter has a reasonably colorable defense, given the forum shopping, etc. it’s pretty likely to be sought. If a security for costs order is granted, depending on how the case is going, the amount can be revisited and increased.  A case is stayed until the security is provided. Plaintiffs are more likely to get hit with a security for costs order than defendants. Wealthy parties, especially large corporations are at a disadvantage seeking a security for costs order, a serious one if they are the claimant/plaintiff to stop it being used as a club.  

I don’t recall for certain, but my recollection is that many US courts won’t enforce ‘English rule’ loser-pays costs awards after a case, and that this is a factor in deciding to require security for costs from a US based plaintiff (i.e., his case is crap, and if I win, a costs award won’t be enforced where he lives.)

Of course our domestic fans of plutocratic theocracy or theocratic plutocracy would like nothing better to combine Irish libel laws with the US system’s rule that you can harass somebody with a meritless lawsuit because you’ll almost never be forced to pay the legal costs of the party you’re harrassing.

So look for that proposal at a Federalist Society forum near you.

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