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Twitter Files: Social media reportedly censored true COVID-19 stories

In the latest Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi reported on the Virality Project, a global study launched by the Stanford Internet Observatory, that worked with the U.S. government “to launch a pan-industry monitoring plan for Covid-related content” and censor the stories they deemed as mis- or disinformation on the most popular social media platforms.

“Detect, analyze, and respond to incidents of COVID-19 vaccine disinformation across online ecosystems, and ultimately mitigate the impact of narratives which would otherwise undermine the public’s confidence in the safety of these processes in the United States,” the Virality Project wrote on its official website.

In terms of real-world effects, this meant news articles or posts, distributed across social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or Youtube, about “vaccinated individuals contracting COVID-19”, “natural immunity”, “suggesting COVID-19 ‘leaked from a lab’”, and even satire about those subjects would be flagged as “potential violations”.

4.All were characterized as “potential violations” or disinformation “events” by the Virality Project, a sweeping, cross-platform effort to monitor billons of social media posts by Stanford University, federal agencies, and a slew of (often state-funded) NGOs.

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 17, 2023

Suddenly talking about a particular subject, even referring to scientific studies, across social media platforms became subject to violation and worthy of a strike, account suspensions, or even a ban from the platform.

“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,” Matt Taibbi pointed out.

7.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. pic.twitter.com/Xakyj2PMye

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 17, 2023

In time, social media platforms started to change their terms of service to adhere to the Virality Project’s standards.

“VP [Virality Project] 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’,” Tabbi reported on Twitter.

14.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." pic.twitter.com/nOyuw2r5cH

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 17, 2023

Even more control

After a year of undisturbed functioning the Virality Project decided to take the next step and lobby for the creation of “a ‘Misinformation and Disinformation Center of Excellence’ to be housed within CISA, at the Department of Homeland Security,” the Twitter Files thread continues.

And just like clockwork, the next day the “DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced in a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that a ‘Disinformation Governance Board’ had been created.”

29. The next day, April 27, 2022, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced in a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that a “Disinformation Governance Board” had been created, to be headed by the singing censor, Nina Jankowitz. https://t.co/OwWF7PW1Ct

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 17, 2023

The board only worked for four months before it was disbanded.

In conclusion “America’s information mission went from counterterrorism abroad to stopping ‘foreign interference’ from reaching domestic audiences, to 80 percent domestic content, much of it true,” Matt Taibbi wrote in the last post of the 19. TWITTER FILES thread.

https://t.co/6whUaYR1ja recap: America’s information mission went from counterterrorism abroad, to stopping “foreign interference” from reaching domestic audiences, to 80% domestic content, much of it true. The “Disinformation Governance Board” is out; but truth-policing is not.

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 17, 2023

Matt Taibbi is an award-winning author of New York Times bestsellers such as “The Divide”, “Griftopia”, and “The Great Derangement”, investigative reporter and creator of Racket News substack.

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