Twitter pushed to censor ‘true stories’ about Covid – Matt Taibbi – Reuters
Government-linked entity recommended ‘Orwellian’ crackdown on ‘vaccine misinformation’, reporter reported
A government-linked academic group has pushed Twitter to censor factually correct stories about Covid-19 if they risk “fuel hesitation” on vaccines, according to the latest batch of internal documents released by the platform’s new owner, Elon Musk.
Published by journalist Matt Taibbi on Friday, the documents show that beginning in February 2021, Twitter’s senior leadership — including former trust and safety chief Yoel Roth — signed on to an initiative by the University of Stanford who would alert them to the latest news. “vaccine misinformation stories” spread on the platform.
Titled “The Virality Project,” the initiative was led by a former CIA employee and included scholars from several universities, as well as researchers from organizations funded by the Pentagon, National Science Foundation and US State Department. . The Virality Project also stated on its website that it “build strong bonds” with the Office of the Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Homeland Security, among other agencies and departments.
43.VP would later say that he partnered with “several government agencies,” including the Office of the Surgeon General and the CDC. He also reportedly worked with DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and GEC, among others. pic.twitter.com/WUlrkFk7JX
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 17, 2023
In its briefings to Twitter, the Virality Project recommended that “real content that could promote vaccine hesitancy” – such as stories of side effects and certain vaccines banned abroad – are censored. Posts raising concerns about vaccine mandates were considered “anti vax” disinformation, while “just ask questions” Was judged “a tactic commonly used by disinformation spreaders”, and post on the “Monitored State” was deemed bannable “conspiracy” theory.
It’s unclear how often Twitter complied with requests from the virality project, though Taibbi said that within a month, platform staff began using the recommendations of the project when evaluating the content to be censored.
At the time, Twitter’s rules on the Covid-19 “disinformation” required that a specific position be “obviously false” while allowing “strong comment” opinion writing and satire. The Virality Project, however, urged Twitter management to ban “recidivists” before they even created any new posts.
Sharing leaked emails from White House coronavirus czar Anthony Fauci could “exacerbate distrust of Dr. Fauci and of American public health institutions”, the Virality Project warned during a June 2021 briefing, while a follow-up report highlighted the spread of “disturbing jokes” on the harassment of door-to-door vaccine promoters deployed by the administration of US President Joe Biden.
“As an Orwellian proof of concept, the virality project was a resounding success”, Taibbi wrote on Friday. “Government, academia and an oligopoly of potential corporate competitors quickly organized behind a covert, unified effort to control political messaging.”
Since buying Twitter in October and installing himself as the platform’s new CEO, Musk has regularly released batches of documents and internal communications in an effort to shed light on his previously held censorship policies. opaque. A slice of files released in December revealed that Twitter censored “legitimate content” on Covid-19 at the direct request of the White House.