The latest findings of Elon Musk’s controversial “Twitter Files” confirms the U.S. government pressured former executives to censor information about COVID-19 that was “true but inconvenient.”
Journalist David Zweig released a 40-tweet thread Monday titled “How Twitter Rigged the Covid Debate.”
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Musk, Twitter’s new owner and CEO, has released several internal documents for select reporters to analyze and release to the public. This latest installment, popularly named “The Twitter Files”, was reviewed by Zweig for the Free Press.
So far, the findings have revealed that the FBI not only pressured the social media site to suppress reports about Hunter Biden’s laptop, but that it also paid Twitter employees millions of dollars to do so. Additionally, reports have also confirmed that conservatives were shadow-banned from the site despite not violating any rules or policies.
Now, a new report reveals how Twitter “rigged the COVID debate” by discrediting doctors, and medical experts, and suppressing users whose opinions were inconvenient to the government’s pandemic policy.
Zwieg shares that both the Trump and Biden administration pressured Twitter and other social platforms to moderate content according to “their wishes.”
According to internal data, the Trump administration was concerned about panic buying, conspiracies around 5G cell towers, and runs on grocery stores.
But when the Biden administration took over they became focused on taking down users with an “anti-vaxxer” message.
“In the summer of 2021, president (sic) Biden said social media companies were ‘killing people’ for allowing vaccine misinformation. [Alex] Berenson was suspended hours after Biden’s comments, and kicked off the platform the following month,” Zweig explained.
“Berenson sued (and then settled with) Twitter. In the legal process, Twitter was forced to release certain internal communications, which showed direct White House pressure on the company to take action on Berenson,” he added.
Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s head of U.S. Public Policy, summarized meetings with the Biden administration and notes his team was “very angry” that Twitter had not been more aggressive in de-platforming multiple accounts.
The site’s former executives acknowledge the administration wanted them to “do more”, but internal communications indicate that leaders were cautious in taking extreme measures on the platform.
They did, however, suppress the viewership of many doctors and scientific experts whose opinions conflicted with the official positions of the White House and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), or were “contrarian but true.”
“As a result, legitimate findings and questions that would have expanded the public debate went missing,” Zweig notes.
Dr. Martin Kulldorff, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, tweeted views at odds with U.S. public health authorities, Zweig’s notes reported.
Kulldorff tweeted that not everyone should be vaccinated, especially children or those who had already contracted COVID.
But Twitter moderators flagged the tweet as false even though it was an expert’s opinion and in line with vaccine policies in numerous other countries.
“Yet it was deemed ‘false information’ by Twitter moderators merely because it differed from CDC guidelines,” Zweig reported.
Zweig adds he found several instances of tweets labeled as “misleading”, taken down, or accounts suspended because the opinions differed from CDC guidelines.
User KellyKga, a public health fact checker with 18,000 followers, had her tweet labeled as “misleading” although she shared information directly from the CDC’s website.
Rhode Island physician, Andrew Bostom, had his account suspended from Twitter after receiving multiple strikes for misinformation.
One of the violations was for a tweet referring to the results from a peer-reviewed study on mRNA vaccines, Zweig reports.
An internal audit, conducted after Bostom’s lawyer contacted Twitter, found that only one of his five alleged violations was valid.
It was considered a violation only because it “cited data that was legitimate but inconvenient to the public health establishment’s narrative about the risks of flu versus Covid in children,” Zweig wrote.
Zweig details that Twitter moderated the tweets with the help of artificial intelligence bots and moderators in other countries, like the Philippines.
He notes that high-level Twitter executives tasked bots and foreign contractors, or “non-experts”, with the responsibility of analyzing “tweets on complex topics like myocarditis and mask efficacy data.”
“[It] was destined for a significant error rate,” Zweig explains.
He adds that human bias was “run amok” on the site and gives the example of senior executives flagging a tweet by Trump after he recovered from COVID in 2020.
The former president told his followers to “not be afraid of COVID”, but Twitter’s Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker contends the statement violated the platform’s misinformation policy.
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of Trust & Safety, pushed back explaining that optimism wasn’t misinformation.
“Twitter made a decision, via the political leanings of senior staff, and govt pressure, that the public health authorities’ approach to the pandemic – prioritizing mitigation over other concerns – was “The Science,” Zeig wrote.
He added, “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?”
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