The latest edition of "The Twitter Files" suggests that the White House pressured Twitter to censor tweets advocating a disfavored narrative on the coronavirus pandemic, and the social media giant even attached warning labels to tweets featuring data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over the past month, independent journalists have released document dumps labeled "The Twitter Files," which detail how the social media giant took action to censor news and accounts of people whose views do not align with that of Twitter employees. In many cases, Twitter acted on the suggestions of U.S. government officials.
The 10th set of "Twitter Files" was released Monday by journalist David Zweig as a 40-tweet thread. He alleges that "Twitter rigged the COVID debate" by "censoring info that was true but inconvenient to [U.S. government] policy, by discrediting doctors and other experts who disagreed, [and] by suppressing ordinary users, including some sharing the CDC's *own data.*"
1. THREAD:— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
THE TWITTER FILES: HOW TWITTER RIGGED THE COVID DEBATE
– By censoring info that was true but inconvenient to U.S. govt. policy
– By discrediting doctors and other experts who disagreed
– By suppressing ordinary users, including some sharing the CDC’s *own data*
Zweig said he reviewed "internal files" at Twitter on an assignment for Bari Weiss' The Free Press, showing that "both the Trump and Biden administrations directly pressed Twitter executives to moderate the platform's pandemic content according to their wishes."
A Twitter summary of meetings with the Trump administration revealed that the White House was concerned about "runs on grocery stores" and "misinformation that could stoke panic buying and behaviors."
6. At the onset of the pandemic, according to meeting notes, the Trump admin was especially concerned about panic buying. They came looking for “help from the tech companies to combat misinformation” about “runs on grocery stores.” But . . . there were runs on grocery stores. pic.twitter.com/duzk2I1Y7T— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
"One of the first meeting requests from the Biden White House was about COVID misinformation," a document obtained by Zweig read. "Biden's staff focused on vaccines and high-profile anti-vaxxer accounts, including [former New York Times reporter] Alex Berenson."
Recalling how Biden insisted that social media companies were "killing people" by not cracking down on vaccine misinformation, Zweig stated that "Berenson was suspended hours after Biden's comments, and kicked off the platform the following month." Berenson was later reinstated following a lawsuit.
"In the legal process Twitter was compelled to release certain internal communications, which showed direct White House pressure on the company to take action on Berenson," Zweig wrote.
While Zweig acknowledged that "Twitter did not fully capitulate to the Biden team's wishes," he provided examples of Twitter suppressing views about coronavirus policy that "conflicted with the official positions of the White House."
In one such case, a tweet by Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Dr. Martin Kulldorff was subject to censorship.
"Thinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should," the tweet in question proclaimed. "COVID vaccines are important for older high-risk people, and their care-takers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children."
A Twitter moderator identified Kulldorff's tweet as a violation of "COVID-19 misinformation policy," suggesting that it contained "false information regarding the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, which goes against CDC guidelines."
Twitter added a "misleading" label to the tweet, urging users to "learn why health officials recommend a vaccine for most people" and preventing people from liking or replying to it.
23. After Twitter took action, Kulldorff’s tweet was slapped with a “Misleading” label and all replies and likes were shut off, throttling the tweet’s ability to be seen and shared by many people, the ostensible core function of the platform: pic.twitter.com/Qa1HpaEray— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
Twitter also attached a "misleading" label to a tweet authored by "Kelley K," a self-described "public health fact checker" with over 18,000 followers, displaying CDC data about the number of deaths caused by various illnesses.
As with Kulldorff's tweet, Twitter prevented the sharing, replying or liking of Kelley K's post. The warning label contained similar talking points to the one added to Kulldorff's tweet, namely that "health officials consider COVID-19 vaccines safe for most people," even though the post in question had little to do with the vaccine debate.
Kelley K's tweet responded to a statement maintaining that "since December of 2021, COVID has been the leading cause of death from disease in children."
The tweet stated that since December 2021, the coronavirus was the leading cause of death in children only "if you ignore all non-disease deaths, AND you ignore cancer, heart disease, [and] SIDS." Zweig stated the tweet subject to censorship by Twitter "was a reply to a tweet that contained actual misinformation."
"Covid has never been the leading cause of death from disease in children," Zweig added. "Yet that tweet remains on the platform, and without a 'misleading' label."
Rhode Island-based physician Dr. Andrew Bostom received a permanent suspension from Twitter following multiple "strikes."
One tweet that earned him a "strike" consisted of a link to a peer-reviewed study concluding that one particular coronavirus vaccination "temporarily impairs semen concentration & total motile count among semen donors, with apparent rebound by ~ 5mos, but no data on boostering effect."
Zweig reported that after Bostom's attorney contacted Twitter, the company conducted an audit of the strikes finding that "only 1 of Bostom's 5 violations were valid."
"The one Bostom tweet found to still be in violation cited data that was legitimate but inconvenient to the public health establishment's narrative about the risks of flu versus Covid in children," Zweig wrote.
Efforts to censor so-called "misinformation" about the coronavirus pandemic predate the Biden administration.
When then-President Donald Trump sent out a tweet announcing that he was leaving the Walter Reed Medical Center after undergoing medical treatment for coronavirus, he urged the American people "don't be afraid of Covid" and "don't let it dominate your life."
Jim Baker, who formerly served as the FBI's general counsel before joining Twitter to assume the role of deputy general counsel, asked Twitter officials, "why isn't this POTUS tweet a violation of our COVID-19 policy (especially the 'Don't be afraid of Covid' statement)?"
One of the email's recipients, Twitter's former Head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth, characterized the tweet as "a broad, optimistic statement."
35. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of Trust & Safety, had to explain that optimism wasn’t misinformation. pic.twitter.com/1pj8uvzWR1— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
"It doesn't incite people to do something harmful, nor does it recommend against taking precautions or following mask directives (or other guidelines). It doesn't fall within the published scope of our policies," Roth responded to Baker.
Within 48 hours of releasing the latest edition of "The Twitter Files," new CEO Elon Musk, who released documents to independent journalists as part of his pledge for greater transparency, declared that "New Twitter policy is to follow the science." He clarified that this means the allowance of "reasoned questioning of the science."
Previous releases in "The Twitter Files" series, the first of which was published at the beginning of the month, purport to show Twitter officials working to censor stories about the contents of Hunter Biden's laptop even though they did not believe such posts violated company policy. "The Twitter Files" also suggest Twitter limited the reach of certain accounts through the practice of "shadow banning," collaborated with the federal government to combat "misinformation" surrounding the 2020 presidential election and took action against accounts that questioned the platform's decision to ban Trump.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org