Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.
Twitter engaged in widespread censorship of prominent scientists and medical experts for posting content that contradicted the official COVID-19 narrative, according to the latest “Twitter files” document dump, released Dec. 26, 2022, by investigative reporter and author David Zweig.
Much of this censorship came at the behest of the Biden administration, according to Zweig, who said internal documents revealed that the Biden administration was “very angry” that Twitter didn’t engage in more censorship.
Prior installments of the “Twitter files” focused on political censorship and the widespread use of secret blacklists and shadow banning, the direct involvement of agencies such as the FBI in such censorship on Twitter and Twitter’s collusion with the Pentagon and U.S. military to protect accounts perpetuating propaganda.
Only a limited amount of COVID-19-related content was previously revealed as part of the ongoing release of the “Twitter files,” primarily information that Stanford University professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccines and lockdowns, was placed on a blacklist by Twitter.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 1, Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted that 2023 “won’t be boring,” and responded to author Juanita Broaddrick’s “waiting … for #FauciFiles” comment with: “Later this week.”
“Twitter files” Part 8 reveals another layer of collusion between Twitter + U.S. gov, including that Twitter protected numerous accounts and personas created by the U.S. military for the dissemination of propaganda in the Middle East and beyond.https://t.co/FWno6dS8eK
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) December 21, 2022
Zweig: ‘Twitter rigged the COVID debate’
In a series of 39 tweets posted Dec. 26, Zweig, reporting on behalf of The Free Press, revealed information and documents showing how, in his words, “Twitter rigged the COVID debate.”
This was accomplished, according to Zweig, “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 [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] *own data* [emphasis original].”
This censorship, according to Zweig, often occurred with direct U.S. government involvement, particularly on the part of the Biden administration.
Zweig, whose work previously has been published by The New York Times, The Atlantic and New York Magazine, wrote: “The United States government pressured Twitter and other social media platforms to elevate certain content and suppress other content about COVID-19.”
Both the Biden and Trump administrations had, to varying extents, pressured Twitter to “moderate the platform’s pandemic content according to their wishes,” according to Zweig, citing “internal files at Twitter that [he] viewed.”
This resulted in the development of an official COVID-19-related narrative by Twitter. “Twitter made a decision, via the political leanings of senior staff, and [government] pressure, that the public health authorities’ approach to the pandemic — prioritizing mitigation over other concerns — was ‘The Science,’” Zweig said.
38. Information that challenged that view, such as showing harms of vaccines, or that could be perceived as downplaying the risks of Covid, especially to children, was subject to moderation, and even suppression. No matter whether such views were correct or adopted abroad.
— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
While, according to Zweig, the Trump administration was largely “concerned about panic buying” in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting with executives from Twitter, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others, the Biden administration was much more concerned about “anti-vaxxer accounts.”
According to Zweig, one such “anti-vaxxer account” targeted by Biden officials was that of former New York Times journalist Alex Berenson. In the summer of 2021, wrote Zweig, Biden said social media companies were “killing people” for allowing vaccine information.
Twitter suspended Berenson within hours of Biden’s remarks and subsequently permanently banned him. Berenson sued Twitter and, as part of an eventual settlement, Twitter “was compelled to release certain internal communications, which showed direct White House pressure on the company to take action on Berenson.”
Documents accompanying the tweets posted by Zweig pertaining to Berenson revealed internal discussions among Twitter staff on their private Slack communications channel, revealing external pressure to ban Berenson from the platform. This was accompanied by evidence of meetings between the White House and Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s then-head of U.S. Public Policy.
Communications from Culbertson showed the Biden administration was “very angry” that, in Zweig’s words, “Twitter had not been more aggressive in deplatforming multiple accounts … they wanted Twitter to do more.”
“Twitter executives did not fully capitulate to the Biden team’s wishes,” Zweig said, but they nevertheless “did suppress views — many from doctors and scientific experts — that conflicted with the official positions of the White House.”
“As a result, legitimate findings and questions that would have expanded the public debate went missing,” Zweig said.
Zweig noted that much of the content moderation was “conducted by bots” that were “too crude for such nuanced work,” or by “contractors, in places like the Philippines” who were “non experts” tasked to “adjudicate tweets on complex topics like myocarditis and mask efficacy data.”
Ultimately, according to Zweig, “The buck stopped with higher level employees at Twitter who chose the inputs for the bots and decision trees, and subjectively escalated cases and suspensions” based on “individual and collective bias.”
With COVID-19, wrote Zweig, “this bias bent heavily toward establishment dogmas.”
“Inevitably, dissident yet legitimate content was labeled as misinformation,” Zweig said and as a result, “the accounts of doctors and others were suspended both for tweeting opinions and demonstrably true information.”
One such doctor was Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a Harvard Medical School epidemiologist. Internal emails showed an “intent to action” targeting Kulldorff for violating Twitter’s “COVID-19 misinformation policy” and sharing “false information regarding the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, which goes against CDC guidelines.”
The March 15, 2021, tweet in question by Kulldorff stated: “No. Thinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should. COVID vaccines are important for older high-risk people, and their care-takers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children.”
According to Zweig, despite being “an expert’s opinion” and “one which also happened to be in line with vaccine policies in numerous other countries,” Kulldorff’s tweet “was deemed ‘false information’ by Twitter merely because it differed from CDC guidelines.”
As a result, a “misleading” label was added to Kulldorff’s tweet, “replies and likes were shut off” and the tweet’s visibility was throttled.
Such actions were not isolated to the tweets of one doctor. “In my review of internal files, I found countless instances of tweets labeled as ‘misleading’ or taken down entirely, sometimes triggering account suspensions, simply because they veered from CDC guidance or differed from establishment views,” Zweig said.
One user’s tweet was labeled “misleading” even though it displayed the CDC’s own data, after being flagged by a bot and after receiving many “tattles” (internal Twitter lingo for reports manually submitted by users). A manual review of the tweet followed, leading to the application of the “misleading” label.
“Tellingly,” wrote Zweig, the tweet in question was written in response “to a tweet that contained actual misinformation,” but which nevertheless “remains on the platform, and without a ‘misleading’ label.”
Data from peer-reviewed studies ‘flagged or suppressed’
Zweig also referred to several other instances where tweets referring to data from studies published in peer-reviewed journals were “flagged or suppressed.”
One user, Rhode Island physician Dr. Andrew Bostom, contacted Twitter via his attorney following his permanent suspension from the platform for posting data published in the Andrology journal finding that “Primary COVID-19 BNT162b mRNA vaccinated temporarily impairs semen concentration & total motile count among semen donors.”
An internal review followed, finding that only one of Bostom’s five “violations” was valid. According to Zweig though, this “valid” violation pertained to a tweet that “cited data that was legitimate but inconvenient to the public health establishment’s narrative” — namely, that flu “is more lethal than COVID-19 in children.”
There was even internal lobbying — described by Zweig as “human bias run amok” — to moderate the following Oct. 5, 2020, tweet by President Donald Trump:
I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2020
According to Zweig, a “surreal exchange” followed internally the same day, involving Jim Baker, a former FBI lawyer who was then Twitter’s deputy general counsel, who questioned “why telling people to not be afraid wasn’t a violation of Twitter’s COVID-19 misinformation policy.”
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s then-head of Trust and Safety, replied that “optimism wasn’t misinformation.”
In summarizing this installment of the “Twitter files” release, Zweig wrote:
“What might this pandemic and its aftermath have looked like if there had been a more open debate on Twitter and other social media platforms — not to mention the mainstream press — about the origins of COVID, about lockdowns, about the true risks of COVID in kids, and much more?”
The internal biases revealed by Zweig were further confirmed in an additional series of tweets by Musk on Dec. 28, revealing that a “Fauci Fan Club,” referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, existed on one of Twitter’s internal Slack communication channels.
Preceding this, Musk tweeted out a Yahoo! News story revealing that in 2012, Fauci authored a journal article arguing in favor of gain-of-function research that, at the time, had been put on pause.
Embattled doctors, scientists react
Various medical experts and scientists who were subject to Twitter censorship publicly reacted to the latest “Twitter files” release.
Kulldorff, in a recent interview with The Epoch Times, said:
“There should be an open discussion. You can’t expect people to trust public health and trust the scientific community if you don’t have that open communication and open debate.”
“I think for many people, they only heard one voice,” Kullldorff said. “And when they heard alternative voices, [those voices] were sort of dismissed as cranks. But that’s not how medicine or science works.”
The government “should not at all be involved” in influencing content on social media platforms, according to Kulldorff, who questioned whether other scientists were “involved in urging Twitter to censor their fellow scientists who had a different opinion.”
As previously reported by The Defender, a peer-reviewed study published in November 2022 found that numerous doctors and scientists who publicly expressed views or data contrary to official COVID-19 policy were subjected to censorship or dismissal from their positions, often by the institutions they worked for.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, the “Twitter files” reveal the existence of a “Deep State” and also that “the lawlessness of our intelligence agencies and the psychological warfare against the American public is far worse than most people ever expected.”
Other medical experts took the opportunity to openly discuss and debate issues pertaining to COVID-19 vaccines and measures.
In a live Dec. 28 Twitter Spaces discussion spanning more than four hours and hosted by blogger Matt Wallace, a panel of experts, including Drs. Ryan Cole, Simone Gold, Scott Jensen and Aaron Kheriaty, as well as journalists and activists, including Tara Bull of Fox Business and Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, debated such issues.
In introducing the discussion, Wallace said that “for far too long, many truths about COVID have been banned, suppressed and dismissed.” He credited Musk with allowing the panel to “freely talk about some of these issues that we could not talk about before.”
House calls for investigation
Amid the flurry of recent activity, Ella Irwin, Twitter’s new head of Trust and Safety, on Dec. 28 tweeted that the review of “thousands of suspended accounts” is ongoing and will require approximately 30 days to be completed.
The review is part of the general amnesty of suspended accounts announced by Musk in a Nov. 24 tweet. According to Irwin, this amnesty is applicable to “users that did not engage in threats of harm/violence, fraud or other illegal activity.”
And in response to the “Twitter files” released up until that point, House Judiciary Committee Republicans, led by incoming Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), delivered a letter demanding that FBI Director Christopher Wray turn over records of all communications and payments involving Twitter.
According to the letter, co-authored by Jordan and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), “We are investigating politicization and abuses at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as Big Tech’s censorship of conservatives online.”
The letter further stated:
“These documents show that the FBI maintained this relationship with Twitter apart from any particularized need for a specific investigation, but as a permanent and ongoing surveillance operation.
“These revelations sadly reinforce our deep concerns about the FBI’s misconduct and its hostility to the First Amendment.”
Just the News reported that Jordan plans “a wide investigation of the FBI and Justice Department practices, including censorship, snooping on congressional investigators, the use of confidential informants and the targeting of parents as domestic terrorists.”