If we heard it once, we heard it a thousand times.
“The science says…”
“The data show…”
“The experts agree…”
Now we know that the government took secret action to muscle social media companies into censoring and banning highly credentialed and respected medical and scientific experts, as well as anyone who cited or shared their views.
That’s the latest revelation from the Twitter Files, internal company communications that owner Elon Musk has opened to a group of independent journalists.
“The United States government pressured Twitter and other social media platforms to elevate certain content and suppress other content about COVID-19,” journalist David Zweig reported on Dec. 26 in a thread titled “How Twitter Rigged the COVID Debate.”
At the outset of the pandemic, Zweig reported, the Trump administration asked tech companies for help to combat “misinformation that could stoke panic buying” and “runs on grocery stores.” When the Biden administration took over, “Biden’s staff focused on vaccines and high-profile anti-vaxxer accounts, including Alex Berenson,” according to internal company documents. “In the summer of 2021,” Zwieg reported, “President Biden said social media companies were ‘killing people’ for allowing vaccine misinformation. Berenson was suspended hours after Biden’s comments, and kicked off the platform the following month.”
Berenson is an author and was a longtime reporter for the New York Times. He developed a very large following on Twitter early in the pandemic by posting government data from around the world and analyzing publicly available information about COVID-19 and later, the mRNA vaccines. Berenson sued Twitter over the suspension and sought to find out if the government was involved in the decision.
Yes, it was. Zweig reported that in a December 2022 summary of meetings with the White House, Twitter U.S. Public Policy chief Lauren Culbertson wrote that the Biden team was “very angry” that Twitter had not done more to deplatform multiple accounts, especially Berenson’s.
In March 2021, Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Martin Kulldorff answered a question on Twitter about whether younger age groups and people who had already had COVID needed to be vaccinated. “No,” he responded, “Thinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should.” Dr. Kulldorff recommended vaccination for “high-risk people and their care-takers,” but said it was not needed by children or those with prior natural infection.
Internal emails at Twitter show that a moderator flagged the tweet by Kulldorff, a Harvard Medical School professor, as “false information” and a violation of the company’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. Twitter slapped a “Misleading” warning on the tweet and suppressed its reach. “This Tweet can’t be replied to, shared or liked,” the warning label stated.
Twitter flagged tweets as “misleading” if they diverged at all from the official government line, even if the tweets quoted or copied data directly from scientific journals or government websites. Dr. Andrew Bostom, an internal medicine specialist who was on the faculty of Brown University Medical School from 1997 to 2021, was permanently suspended from Twitter for tweeting a link to a scientific article on COVID-19 vaccines lowering sperm counts.
Dr. Bostom’s account has been restored to Twitter under Elon Musk’s new regime, along with the accounts of many other distinguished, accomplished and frequently published scientists and medical doctors.
One particularly revealing communication about content moderation unearthed by Zweig involves then-President Donald Trump’s personal experience as a COVID patient. “I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 p.m.,” Trump tweeted on October 5, 2020. “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker, formerly a top attorney at the FBI, sent an email to two Twitter executives that read, “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 executives responded that the tweet is a “broad, optimistic statement” that “doesn’t incite people to do something harmful,” and so “doesn’t fall within the published scope of our policies.” However, the executive acknowledged that Baker might have a “different read on it.”
It’s lucky that Twitter didn’t exist when Pope John Paul II proclaimed, “Be not afraid.” The Soviet Union might still be standing.
What is revealed in the Twitter Files — an ongoing government operation to pressure tech companies into carrying out government-directed censorship and suppression of speech — is blatantly unconstitutional. The First Amendment prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech.” Gradually, the full story is coming out, both in the Twitter Files and in courts.
Berenson’s lawsuit ended with a settlement that required Twitter to provide him with access to internal documents from the company. He quickly discovered evidence that the Biden White House had directly pressured Twitter to ban him from the platform. This led to a court ruling in another case, State of Missouri v. Biden, requiring government officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci to answer questions under oath in witness depositions.
In that lawsuit, the states of Missouri and Louisiana together with Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya and others are suing federal officials and agencies, asserting that they “colluded with and/or coerced social media companies to suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content on social media platforms by labeling the content ‘dis-information,’ ‘mis-information,’ and ‘mal-information.’”
Did you know that the Great Barrington Declaration (gbdeclaration.org), a statement written in October 2020 by epidemiologists Kulldorff (Harvard), Bhattacharya (Stanford) and Dr. Sunetra Gupta (Oxford), which warned of the dangers of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, has been signed by 935,000 scientists, doctors and concerned citizens worldwide?
Did you know that more than 17,000 doctors and scientists signed the October 2021 Rome Declaration (doctorsandscientistsdeclaration.org) warning of the dangers of the current COVID-19 policies?
If this is the first you’ve heard of it, that should give you an idea of the scale of the problem. You can read the Twitter Files for yourself on Twitter or online at twitterfiles.co/archive.
Write Susan@SusanShelley.com and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley