Former British Labour MP George Galloway has taken a High Court action in Dublin against Twitter for defamation after it labelled his account “Russian state-affiliated media”.
The politician and broadcaster is also claiming in the legal proceedings that the social media company unlawfully processed his personal data by labelling and censoring his account.
The 67-year-old presented The Mother of All Talkshows on the Russian state-owned Radio Sputnik service, and also presented Sputnik: Orbiting the World with George Galloway on the Kremlin-linked RT network, formerly known as Russia Today, until it was shut down with British government sanctions in March over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Mr Galloway’s talkshow continues to be broadcast on YouTube.
The “Russian state-affiliated media” designation by Twitter appears on Mr Galloway’s profile and on tweets posted on the network. Mr Galloway said in a statement that Twitter’s “unjust labelling of honestly held political views is the New McCarthyism and it must be held accountable”.
He rejected Twitter’s assertion and denied that he was ever “Russian state-affiliated media”. Being labelled as such was “perverse, unjust and highly damaging”, he said.
He argued that the label had not been applied to him when he presented his show on Russian media and was applied to his Twitter after he had stopped presenting the show on the channel.
A spokeswoman for Twitter in Dublin declined to comment on the legal proceedings.
Mr Galloway’s lawyer, Kevin Winters of Belfast legal firm KRW Law, said Twitter had refused to provide information around its labelling of his account since first applied six weeks ago.
His client was taking the case in Dublin because “Twitter contests jurisdiction anywhere else” and because Ireland was where the data controller for all EU and UK Twitter accounts are asserted to be, said Mr Winters.
Mr Galloway said Twitter’s refusal to explain the labelling was “unbecoming for a major corporation, not least one which styles itself as the ‘public square’”. He described himself as a “man of independent mind”.
“To have attached to my every utterance - on football to family on politics to popular music - a completely false statement that my views are Russian state-directed is unconscionable and a daily stab to the heart of who and what I am,” he said.
The social media company’s stated policy behind state-affiliated media account labels is to focus on outlets where a government exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures and control over production and accounts belonging to state-affiliated media entities, their editors-in-chief or prominent staff.
Mr Galloway’s case will be seen as a further test for how Twitter manages content moderation ahead of the planned €41 billion takeover by billionaire Elon Musk who wants to make the social media platform “an inclusive arena for free speech”.