As Seven Days reports, the writers of a COVID-skeptical book and their publisher, Vermont publisher Chelsea Green, are suing Senator Elizabeth Warren for stifling their free speech by asking Amazon to alter their algorithms to lower the impact of COVID-19 misinformation.
The book in question is The Truth About COVID-19: Exposing the Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal, written by Joseph Mercola and Ronnie Cummins, with a forward by anti-vaccine activist Robert Kennedy Jr. The book claims, among other things, that COVID-19 vaccines are more deadly than COVID itself; that the pandemic was possibly planned in an effort to “facilitate and hide the largest upward transfer of wealth in human history”; and that vitamin C and D can treat and prevent COVID-19. (In February, the FDA contacted Mercola to have him remove the vitamin claim off his website, as there is no scientific basis for it—Mercola was selling vitamins C and D as COVID-19 cures.) Mercola and Kennedy are both members of “the disinformation dozen,” a list of the 12 top spreaders of COVID-19 information reported by the Center for Countering Digital Hate; Mercola takes the top spot on the list.
In September, Warren wrote to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, expressing worry that Amazon was “peddling misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments”; a review by her team had found, among other books, The Truth About COVID-19 was consistently in the top featured products on Amazon when her staff searched for “COVID-19” and “vaccine.” In addition, despite its misinformation, it was tagged as a “Best Seller” and featured more prominently in searches. Warren said Amazon is “feeding misinformation loops through its search and ‘Best Seller’ algorithms, potentially leading countless Americans to risk their health and the health of their neighbors based on misleading and inaccurate information that they discover on Amazon’s website”; she called on Amazon to review their algorithms and provide both a public report on the extent to which their algorithms direct consumers to COVID-19 misinformation and a plan to make sure they no longer do so.
Now, the federal civil lawsuit, filed by Mercola, Cummins, Kennedy, and Chelsea Green, claims that the letter Warren sent to Amazon violates their First Amendment rights. “The First Amendment guarantees that books challenging governmental orthodoxy can be sold without fear of governmental reprisal,” reads the lawsuit in part. The lawsuit also cites Bantam Books v Sullivan (1963), where the Supreme Court held that state officials violated the First Amendment by sending letters to booksellers warning that the sale of certain books was potentially unlawful—identifying those letters as a “veiled threat” of legal repercussions. The suit admits the plaintiffs have no proof that Warren’s letter prompted Amazon to limit the reach of The Truth About COVID-19, but says they believe “Amazon is in fact covertly taking such action.”
The Truth About COVID-19 is currently the #1 Best Seller in Amazon’s Political Freedom category.