Tucker Carlson made headlines last week for being suddenly ousted by Fox News – but in the latest release of the “Twitter Files” the former news commentator made headlines for a different reason.
The documents, titled the “Tucker Twitter Files,” released on Thursday by investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker, show that in June 2021, Twitter sought to censor Carlson after he published an op-ed (commentary) for Fox News saying that the Covid-19 vaccines are dangerous for children.
Carlson’s op-ed cited information that was, up until that point, publicly viewable on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website. However, after Carlson’s op-ed was published, that information disappeared from the site.
The files released on Thursday also reveal that Twitter executives held internal debates over how best to censor the content in Carlson’s op-ed (commentary) an initiative that was led by a former press secretary for Sen Chuck Schumer (Democratic-New York).
In an exclusive interview with The Defender on Thursday, Thacker expounded on the significance of these findings – and hinted at what the next “Twitter Files” dump might reveal.
Thacker, who wrote about his findings on his Substack, said that the “bird factory” – referring to Twitter – engaged in “clipping Tucker Carlson’s wings” via its attempted censorship of his op-ed.
Despite being “controversial and polarising,” Thacker said, Carlson was “One of the few Americans to challenge the official framework of acceptable narratives” and, as such, was “hated by the mainstream reporters for daring to throw darts at liberal pieties.”
“Why did Twitter censor Tucker Carlson? Better yet, who helped Twitter do that?” Thacker asked.
Thacker noted that while he was “reading an endless sea of #TwitterFiles” pertaining to efforts to “censor alleged ‘Covid misinformation,’” he unexpectedly discovered documents detailing attempts to censor Carlson.
These efforts appear to have begun on June 24, 2021, when Elizabeth Busby, a policy communications specialist with “Twitter Comms,” sent an email to colleagues inquiring if an op-ed Carlson had written the previous day should be flagged for Covid-19 “misinformation.”
In her email, Busby inquired whether links to Carlson’s op-ed “violate our Covid-19 misleading information policy and qualify for enforcement under our URL policy.” She added, “We’ve seen some Tweets with the link … and some that contain counter-speech.”
In the same message, Busby noted that “in the past,” Twitter had applied a boilerplate warning “to sites containing Covid-19 misinformation” and “Given Tucker’s visibility, we anticipate there may be some press interest regardless of the enforcement outcome.”
Thacker discovered that Busby was not just an ordinary Twitter employee. She joined Twitter in 2020, after leaving the US Senate, where she worked as the deputy national press secretary to then-Senate Majority Leader Schumer.
According to Thacker, “Busby’s work history includes a stint at SKDKnickerbocker, a PR and lobby shop closely aligned with the Democratic party. Busby now leads ‘trust and safety communications’ at Twitch.”
He also noted that Schumer was “a frequent critic of Tucker Carlson.”
What was all the fuss about? Carlson’s June 23, 2021, op-ed for Fox News – The Covid vaccine is dangerous for kids, Big Tech doesn’t want you to know that – referred to language available on the WHO’s website that explicitly did not recommend the Covid-19 vaccines for children.
In that op-ed, which was adapted from Carlson’s opening commentary on that day’s broadcast of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” he referred to then-new guidance from the WHO and also recommendations from medical experts.
Carlson said, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, key pieces of medical guidance from the World Health Organization have proven to be disastrously false – false enough to cost lives. It was the WHO, you’ll remember, that told us Covid couldn’t be transmitted between people, even as the virus was spreading into the United States. It was the WHO that worked in stealth with the Chinese government to obscure the source of the outbreak at the beginning, and then hide its origins from the world. …
“… bureaucrats at the WHO published new vaccine guidance. Here’s what it says: Children should not take the coronavirus vaccine. Why? The drugs are too dangerous. There’s not nearly enough data to understand the long-term effects or to show that the benefits are worth the risk that they bring.
“This is terrible news, of course, for the pharmaceutical industry. Big Pharma has been planning to test the vaccine on six-month-olds.”
According to Thacker, the WHO published an evaluation of vaccine safety and efficacy on April 8, 2021, for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines. For children, the WHO issued the following recommendation:
“Children should not be vaccinated for the moment. There is not yet enough evidence on the use of vaccines against Covid-19 in children to make recommendations for children to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults. However, children should continue to have the recommended childhood vaccines.” The information that Carlson appears to have referenced was still on the WHO’s website as of June 22, 2021, according to Thacker. However, after Carlson’s op-ed was published, the WHO “stealth-edited their page,” according to Thacker, and replaced it with new guidance, which stated:
“Unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe Covid-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.
“More evidence is needed on the use of the different Covid-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against Covid-19.
“WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has concluded that the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above.”
“In other instances where the WHO has updated their vaccine guidance, they note this change with a date at the top of the webpage,” Thacker wrote. “But no update exists for changes the WHO made the day of Tucker’s essay.”
Thacker added, “While some of the language in Tucker’s piece could be viewed as inflammatory – the WHO did not say the vaccines were ‘dangerous’ – independent experts also were advising that children not receive the Covid vaccines, as rare but serious adverse events were not studied.”
The subtitle to Carlson’s op-ed read: “Even posting WHO guidance could get you censored.”
On April 10, 2021, WHO tweeted: “#Covid19 trials for children are underway. Following proven health measures is still the best way to keep everyone, including children, safe from Covid-19.” The tweet remains online to this day.
According to Thacker, the day after the WHO “stealth-edited” its vaccine guidance, Twitter officials began discussing Tucker’s essay – after Busby brought it to their attention.
Twitter employee Brian Clarke responded to Busby’s June 24, 2021, email that same day, writing, “We are going to proceed with labelling any Tweets linking to the article we detect that advance the claim that WHO has deemed the vaccine dangerous for children.”
However, Clarke said, “Given that this article’s narrative is related to ‘big tech censorship’, I want to be mindful that taking action on the URL level could lead to this particular article gaining more traction rather than mitigating the harm associated with it.”
“We’re going to keep an eye on any ongoing discussions related to the article and if it happens to gain traction we will review again under our URL guidelines,” Clarke added.
According to Thacker, “Twitter officials also discussed looping in top Twitter executives, such as the general counsel, due to the ‘political risks’ associated with such actions. Yoel Roth [then-head of Trust and Safety for Twitter] agreed with this approach to ‘escalate.’”
This included a recommendation that then-general counsel for Twitter Vijaya Gadde review any actions taken against Fox News, “given political risks,” while Roth stated that any action against Fox would be “escalated” internally within Twitter.