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 December 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 instalments 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 US 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 January 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.”
Zweig: ‘Twitter rigged the Covid debate’: In a thread of 39 tweets posted on December 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 US [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 US 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 – prioritising mitigation over other concerns – was ‘The Science,’” Zweig said.
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 US 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 labelled 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 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 labelled as ‘misleading’ or taken down entirely, sometimes triggering account suspensions, simply because they veered from CDC guidance or differed from establishment views,” Zweig said.