A new round of Twitter Files dropped on Monday morning, revealing the extent to which the federal government, under both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden had pressured Twitter to censor and suppress information on Covid, Covid vaccines, and the public reactions to the pandemic, that went against their interests.
"THREAD: THE TWITTER FILES: HOW TWITTER RIGGED THE COVID DEBATE – By censoring info that was true but inconvenient to U.S. govt. policy," David Zweig for Free Press began, "By discrediting doctors and other experts who disagreed – By suppressing ordinary users, including some sharing the CDC’s *own data*"
"So far the Twitter Files have focused on evidence of Twitter’s secret blacklists; how the company functioned as a kind of subsidiary of the FBI; and how execs rewrote the platform’s rules to accommodate their own political desires."
"What we have yet to cover is Covid. This reporting, for The Free Press, @thefp, is one piece of that important story."
"The United States government pressured Twitter and other social media platforms to elevate certain content and suppress other content about Covid-19."
"Internal files at Twitter that I viewed while on assignment for @thefp showed that both the Trump and Biden administrations directly pressed Twitter executives to moderate the platform’s pandemic content according to their wishes."
"At the onset of the pandemic, according to meeting notes, the Trump admin was especially concerned about panic buying. They came looking for “help from the tech companies to combat misinformation” about “runs on grocery stores.” But . . . there were runs on grocery stores."
"The Trump White House," that document read, "specifically Michael Kratsios, led the Trump Administration's calls for help from the tech companies to combat misinformation. Areas of focus included conspiracies around 5G cell towers, runs of grocery stores, and misinformation that could stoke panic buying and behaviors."
Zweig said that "It wasn't just Twitter. The meetings with the Trump White were also attended by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others." A Twitter Files drop over the weekend showed that the federal government was intent on using the big social media and tech firms to amplify their messaging, not only on Covid, but on foreign affairs, too, such as the war in Ukraine and the leadership race in Venezuela.
An additional document shared by Zeig reads that "Twitter, alongside several other tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft participated."
"Activities," it continued, "included a standing weekly call to share general trends and hosting a shared Microsoft Teams group. Some companies (not Twitter) gatheres open-sourced information from researchers. Our teams fed this information to the Twitter policy enforcement teams."
It was when the Biden regime came into office, however, that the press was on to censor information questioning the efficacy of the Covid vaccine.
"When the Biden admin took over, one of their first meeting requests with Twitter executives was on Covid. The focus was on 'anti-vaxxer accounts.' Especially Alex Berenson," Zweig writes.
It was "one of the first meeting requests from the Biden White House" that "COVID misinformation" be suppressed. They specifically targeted Berenson.
Berenson was an early critic of the mRNA vaccines, and was booted off the platform for his questioning. He later sued Twitter, and in the fall of 2022, his account was reinstated.
Later, Biden would claim that social media companies were "killing people." A reporter asked Biden in June 2021, "What's your message to platforms like Facebook?"
The president replied to the journalist: "They're killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people."
The White House said shortly thereafter that the administration was in touch with social media companies to monitor, censor, and suppress.
"We are in regular touch with the social media platforms and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team. Given as, Dr. Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue of misinformation specifically on the pandemic," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
"In terms of actions... that we have taken or are working to take from the federal government. We've increased disinformation research and tracking within the Surgeon General's office. We're flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. We're working with doctors and medical professionals to connect two connected medical experts who are popular with their audiences with accurate information and boost trusted content.
"So we're helping get trusted content out there. We also created the COVID Community Corps to get factual information into the hands of local messengers. And we're also investing in the President's, the Vice President's and Dr. Fauci's time in meeting with influencers who also have large reaches to a lot of these target audiences who can spread and share accurate information."
The White House issued a plan for how social media companies should censor information.
"A December 2022 summary of meetings with the White House by Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s Head of U.S. Public Policy, adds new evidence of the White House’s pressure campaign, and cements that it repeatedly attempted to directly influence the platform," Zweig wrote.
"Culbertson wrote that the Biden team was “very angry” that Twitter had not been more aggressive in deplatforming multiple accounts. They wanted Twitter to do more." Zweig shared a document showing that "The Biden team was not satisfied with Twitter's enforcement approach as they wanted Twitter to do more to deplatform several accounts. Because of this dissatisfaction, we were asked to join several other calls. They were very angry in nature."
Twitter, Zweig reports, "did not fully capitulate to the Biden team’s wishes. An extensive review of internal communications at the company revealed employees often debating moderation cases in great detail, and with more care than was shown by the government toward free speech."
Despite that, however, "Twitter 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 lays out the problems with "Twitter's process," saying that AI and machine learning tools were employed to do much of the work of "content moderation," along with outsourced contractors in the Phillipines. These employees were given "decision trees" to help them make the determination as to whether or not to suppress Americans' speech.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk recently said on the All-in podcast that yes, much of the content moderation work is being done by outside contractors.
But "most importantly," Zweig wrote, "the buck stopped with higher level employees at Twitter who chose the inputs for the bots and decision trees, and subjectively decided escalated cases and suspensions. As it is with all people and institutions, there was individual and collective bias."
"With Covid, this bias bent heavily toward establishment dogmas," Zweig said. Twitter mods believed the Biden administration, just as the Biden administration was rewriting the concept of "misinformation" as anything that goes against their preferred narrative and interests.
"Inevitably," Zweig wrote, "dissident yet legitimate content was labeled as misinformation, and the accounts of doctors and others were suspended both for tweeting opinions and demonstrably true information."
Zweig gave examples of doctors who were suppressed, including Dr. Martin Kulldorf from Harvard MEdical School, who said that thinking "everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking no one should." He said vaccines should go to high-risk populations, and not to those who are likely to weather a Covid infection without incident, like children. Twitter said his tweet was "misleading."
Zweig said there were "countless examples" of this, wherein accounts that didn't toe the Biden CDC's line were censored, suppressed, or banned outright. A bunch of these accounts were not flagged by humans, but by "bots," which flagged as "misleading" the claims that Covid is not the leading cause of death among children—it wasn't then, and isn't now, but the label stands.
Tweets about children's resilience to Covid, or that they were not in need of vaccination, were repeatedly flagged though the tweets were not in violation.
A Trump tweet was flagged as well, which was about his leaving Walter Reed Medical Center after being treated for Covid.
The tweet read "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!"
Former FBI director Jim Baker, then Twitter's Deputy General Counsel, asked "why telling people to not be afraid wasn’t a violation of Twitter’s Covid-19 misinformation policy," Zweig reports.
An email from Baker reads to Yoel Roth and Stacia Cardille reads: "Why isn't this POTUS tweet a violation of our COVID-19 policy? (especially the 'Don't be afraid of Covid' statement)?"
It was, Zweig reports, the "political leanings of senior staff" that were eventually the deciding factor, along with government pressure that the "public health authorities' approach" was more definitive than any scientific understanding of the virus.
"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," Zweig wrote.
It was the narrative, not the science, not free speech rights, that were the deciding factor in whether or not the information was allowed on the platform. This is how information was transformed into "misinformation."
In response, Roth explained to Baker that "optimism wasn’t misinformation."
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