The Biden White House pressured Twitter to both “elevate” and “suppress” users based on their stances on COVID-19 — ultimately “censoring info that was true but inconvenient” to policy makers, according to the latest edition of the “Twitter files” revealed Monday.
The coercion campaign during the pandemic began with the Trump administration — which asked Twitter to crack down on stories about panic buying and “runs on grocery stores” in the early days of the outbreak — but was stepped up under Biden, whose administration was focused on the removal of “anti-vaxxer accounts,” according to The Free Press reporter David Zweig.
For example, in June 2021, hours after Biden publicly raged that social media companies were “killing people” for allowing purported vaccine misinformation to propagate, former New York Times reporter and noted vaccine doubter Alex Berenson was suspended from the site and was ultimately banned.
Berenson responded by suing Twitter, forcing the release of internal communications that showed the White House had pressured the company to squash his account.
In a Slack message from April 2021, an unidentified Twitter employee said the adminstration “had one really tough question about why Alex Berenson hasn’t been kicked off from the platform”.
“It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission. Don’t think of it as a vaccine,” Berenson had tweeted.
“Think of it — at best — as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS,” he also wrote.
As recently as this month, Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s head of US public policy, had detailed the White House’s pressure campaign in a series of meetings, according to Zweig.
Culbertson said in her notes that the administration was “very angry” that Twitter had not taken more aggressive action in silencing vaccine critics and wanted the company to do more, files showed.
Among those users whom Twitter did clamp down on was Dr. Martin Kulldorff, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School who tweeted in March 2021 that people “with prior natural infection do not need” the COVID-19 vaccine, “[n]or [do] children.”
Kulldorff’s tweet was flagged by the site as “misleading” — even though it was in line with the vaccine policies of “numerous other countries,” Zweig wrote.
Another doctor, Andrew Bostom of Rhode Island, was permanently suspended after tweeting the results of negative studies about the vaccines and highlighting data that coronavirus was less dangerous in children than the flu — information that Zweig wrote was “legitimate but inconvenient to the public health establishment’s narrative about the risks of flu versus Covid in children.”
Bostom’s account was reinstated on Christmas morning.
“Thanks to @davidzweig for exposing the grotesque injustice of @Twitter‘s suspension of many accounts, including my own, due to alleged covid “misinformation” i.e., evidence-based data rebutting the warped, but “accepted” narrative,” the doctor wrote Monday.
Zweig’s research found that much of Twitter’s COVID content moderation was conducted by bots “too crude for such nuanced work,” and contractors in places like the Philippines, whose non-medical expertise resulted in a “significant error rate.”
“Individual and collective bias” also afflicted high-level employees at Twitter who were responsible for overseeing the process and “subjectively” escalating cases and suspending users, Zweig found.
When former President Donald Trump told his followers in October 2020 that he was “Feeling really good!” after undergoing COVID-19 treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center — and urged his supporters not to be afraid of the virus or let it “dominate your life,” former FBI general counsel turned Twitter honcho James Baker asked the company’s then-watchdog why the message wasn’t flagged.
“Why isn’t this POTUS tweet a violation of our COVID-19 policy? (Especially the ‘Don’t be afraid of Covid’ statement),” Baker, then Twitter’s deputy general counsel asked then-Head of Safety and Trust Yoel Roth and top legal executive Stacia Cardille.
Roth – who quit last month amid Elon Musk’s November takeover – replied to Baker that optimism was not misinformation.
“It doesn’t incite people to do something harmful, nor does it recommend against taking precautions or following mask directives (or other guidelines),” he replied.
The latest revelations came after previous “Twitter Files” found the FBI and CIA had meddled in the social media company, and prompted it to bow to political pressure — including convincing Twitter to censor The Post’s exposé in the weeks before the 2020 election detailing how Hunter Biden used his father’s name to secure questionable business arrangements overseas.
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