The U.S. government worked with Stanford University's Virality Project in 2021 to push Big Tech to censor stories about true vaccine side effects and true posts that could fuel hesitancy about vaccines, according to new Twitter files published Friday by journalist Matt Taibbi.
"Though the Virality Project reviewed content on a mass scale for Twitter, Google/YouTube, Facebook/Instagram, Medium, TikTok, and Pinterest, it knowingly targeted true material and legitimate political opinion, while often being factually wrong itself," Taibbi tweeted Friday.
The Twitter files are internal Twitter Inc. documents made public by CEO Elon Musk showing what happened behind the scenes during the company's most controversial actions.
Originally, Twitter's internal guidance on COVID-19 required a story to be "demonstrably false" or contain an "assertion of fact" to be actioned, according to Taibbi.
But the Virality Project, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pushed different standards.
"VP told Twitter that 'true stories that could fuel hesitancy,' including things like 'celebrity deaths after vaccine' or the closure of a central NY school due to reports of post-vaccine illness, should be considered 'Standard Vaccine Misinformation on Your Platform,'" said Taibbi.
"In one email to Twitter, VP addressed what it called the 'vaccine passport narrative,' saying 'concerns' over such programs 'have driven a larger anti-vaccination narrative about the loss of rights and freedoms.' This was framed as a 'misinformation' event," he added.
Testimonies about side effects were routinely framed as misinformation by VP, including stories of people getting blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine and people who contracted the blood disorder thrombocytopenia after getting vaccinated.
Taibbi said the information released Friday is important "for two reasons. One, as Orwellian proof-of-concept, the Virality Project was a smash success. Government, academia, and an oligopoly of would-be corporate competitors organized quickly behind a secret, unified effort to control political messaging.
"Two, it accelerated the evolution of digital censorship, moving it from judging truth/untruth to a new, scarier model, openly focused on political narrative at the expense of fact."
Solange Reyner ✉
Solange Reyner is a writer and editor for Newsmax. She has more than 15 years in the journalism industry reporting and covering news, sports and politics.
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