New documents reveal how the United States government used a secret Twitter portal to censor COVID-19 content that contradicted the government’s narrative.
In its ongoing probe into Twitter’s censorship practices, America First Legal has obtained a fourth set of documents (pdf) exposing a secret Twitter portal, which U.S. government officials used to censor dissenting COVID-19 views in violation of the First Amendment. It’s a revelation Elon Musk described as “extremely concerning.”
Extremely concerning …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 14, 2022
The documents reveal that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was collaborating with UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and Mafindo to mitigate “disinformation.”
Mafindo is a Facebook third-party fact-checking partner based in Indonesia that is funded by Google, known to have censored searches for keywords like Coronavirus, and COVID-19 as well as blocking information regarding adverse reactions and deaths caused by COVID-19 vaccines. Facebook started its third-party fact-checking program in 2016, working with fact-checkers from around the world who are certified by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at Poynter to rate and review the accuracy of the content on their platform. According to the IFCN website, they believe “nonpartisan and transparent fact-checking can be a powerful instrument of accountability journalism.” However, among their advisory board, U.S.-based representatives appear to be from liberal-leaning outlets such as the Washington Post and PolitiFact, which is owned by Poynter.
The Twitter Portal
On March 10, 2021 email from a US Public Policy employee at Facebook to several CDC employees spoke of the social media giant’s “weekly sync with CDC” and how the CDC was “to invite other agencies as needed.”
A March 24, 2021 email from the same Facebook employees to CDC employees said “this is my regular FB meeting and they would like to discuss 2 misinformation topics” and “misinformation that was removed.”
On May 10, 2021, a Twitter employee recommended to a CDC official to enroll in Twitter’s Partner Support Portal, which he described as “the best way to get a spreadsheet like this reviewed.”
On May 11, 2021, the CDC official enrolled her personal Twitter account into Twitter’s Partner Support Portal, which allowed “a special, expedited reporting flow in the Twitter Help Center.”
A May 19, 2021 Facebook Community Standards manual reveals how the company works with lawmakers and legal council as well as human rights activists in developing policies in their goals of “bringing 50 million people a step closer to vaccinations” while “combatting COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation” and “overcoming global challenges in vaccination.” Methods used to accomplish this included removing “false information that has been debunked by public health experts” and rejecting ads that violate their policies, “including those that discourage vaccination.” They also reduced the distribution of “misleading claims rated by independent fact-checkers.”
Posts that Facebook would delete–which the CDC or any other public health authority deemed as “false and likely to contribute to imminent violence of physical harm”–included:
Claims that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the common flu or cold. Claims that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted in certain climates, weather conditions, or locations. Claims that for the average person, something can guarantee prevention from getting COVID-19 or can guarantee recovery from COVID-19 before such a cure or prevention has been approved. Claims that COVID-19 tests cause cancer. Claims about the availability or existence of COVID-19 vaccines. Claims about the safety or serious side effects of COVID-19 vaccines. Claims about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Claims about how the COVID-19 vaccine was developed or its ingredients. Claims involving conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines or vaccine programs.
Content deemed to have been “debunked” included among other things, “vaccines cause the disease against which they meant to protect, or cause the person to be more likely to get the disease,” that “natural immunity is safer than vaccine acquired immunity,” and “vaccines are not effective to prevent the disease against what they purport to protect.”
Repeat offenders would face restrictions “including (but not limited to) reduced distribution, removal from recommendations” or removal from the site.
These punishments were conducted despite evidence that the vaccines do not prevent transmission, that vaccines cause adverse effects and even death, and that more vaccinated people are now dying than unvaccinated. Even the CDC admitted in June that vaccinated people could contract the disease again.
‘The Coolest Misinformation Fighting Speakeasy’
In August 2021, the head of Google’s News Lab for the Asia Pacific region (APAC), emailed a CDC Vaccine Confidence Strategist to invite her to the APAC’s “Trusted Media Summit.” The CDC’s vaccine confidence strategist then emailed the event planner for Google’s APAC Trusted Media Summit, noting her excitement over being invited to what she referred to as “the coolest misinformation fighting speakeasy.”
The same CDC employee was then invited to the summit to give a keynote addressing how the CDC was working with WHO and other international organizations to address a so-called “infodemic” and using “social inoculation” to mitigate it.