The latest drop of internal Twitter files reveals that both the Trump and Biden administrations pressured social media platforms to censor certain content related to COVID-19.
Journalist David Zweig reported the concerning news on Monday. According to Zweig, the Trump administration wanted social media platforms to suppress posts that could lead to “runs on grocery stores” and “panic buying” at the beginning of the pandemic. Not surprisingly, the files also show the Biden administration wanted Twitter to censor content that promoted alternative treatments for COVID-19 or questioned the efficacy of the vaccine.
“[B]oth the Trump and Biden administrations directly pressed Twitter executives to moderate the platform’s pandemic content according to their wishes,” Zweig wrote and later referenced President Joe Biden’s 2021 comments that social media companies were “killing people” for allowing users to post so-called “misinformation” about the virus.
The files also indicate the Biden administration asked Twitter to censor Alex Berenson, a journalist who later sued the platform for suppressing his tweets that challenged the White House’s official narrative on the virus. Internal communications from Twitter discovered during his lawsuit confirm the Biden administration’s involvement.
Zweig wrote that while Twitter did not always comply with the requests, its willingness to cooperate with presidential directives stifled free speech that would have promoted “public debate” about the virus.
“Twitter executives 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,” he wrote, adding, “But 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.”
The incorrect labeling of legitimate information as “misinformation” likely prevented some people from making fully informed decisions about treating the virus.
“Inevitably, 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 wrote.
Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Dr. Martin Kulldorff was censored when he recommended that older, at-risk people should get the vaccine but that children and people who previously contracted the virus did not need to.
A screenshot of a Twitter email shows the company decided to “take action” against Kulldorff for spreading “false information about the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, which goes against CDC guidelines.”
Twitter disabled likes and replies to the post and the post itself was labeled “Misleading.”
Zweig wrote that he found “countless” instances of tweets and accounts being censored “simply because they veered from CDC guidance or differed from establishment views.”
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