In a dramatic change of course under new owner Elon Musk, Twitter has announced that it will no longer enforce its controversial Covid-19 “misinformation” policy, which had resulted in the de-platforming of thousands of people who challenged the official line of experts regarding the disease and its treatment.
During the height of the pandemic, Twitter took various steps to combat pandemic “misinformation” – as defined by Twitter, and shaped by “guidance from authoritative sources…” Critics argued that Twitter’s policy effectively made the social media platform the enforcement arm of government and the expert class, many of whose pronouncements later proved to be wrong.
The list of topics that could precipitate the removal of a tweet include the main provision:
“Denial of global or local health authority recommendations to decrease someone’s likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 with the intent to influence people into acting against recommended guidance.”
Twitter’s example of “misinformation” was a tweet suggesting that “social distancing is not effective” Twitter also cited potential tweets describing alleged cures for COVID-19 that were not recommended by the relevant health authorities or that denied “established scientific facts about transmission,” as being unacceptable.
These criteria were used to suspend more than 11,000 accounts on the platform. It used the new policy to temporarily suspend some public figures and publications such as President Trump’s advisor, Rudy Giuliani, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and the conservative publication, The Federalist, all for coronavirus “misinformation.” Yet often, these accounts and others like them were simply expressing a viewpoint different from the consensus of experts, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), we now know that Dr. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Dr. Franci Collins, then-head of the National Institutes of Health, were collaborating to silence or refute prominent scientists who dared to contradict the given narrative. The AIER found that Dr. Collins emailed Dr. Fauci to get a “quick and devastating published take down (sic)” of the Great Barrington Declaration, an open letter by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford), Dr. Sunetra Gupta (Oxford), and Dr. Martin Kulldorff (Harvard) that questioned the use of lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Collins gave an interview to the Washington Post decrying the Great Barrington Declaration as “a fringe component of epidemiology” and that it was “not mainstream science” and that it is “dangerous.” Shortly after, Dr. Fauci gave appeared on CBS to say that Republicans who have criticized him are “really criticizing science, because I represent science. That’s dangerous.”
Twitter’s gold standard for determining if an individual was in “denial” of a global or local health authority recommendation was fraught with political influence that had the effect of suppressing dissent.
Twitter’s recent announcement that it is ending this kind of “misinformation” policing will annoy some in the scientific establishment and the government, precisely because it will make them more accountable.