By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE SENIOR REPORTER
(The Center Square) — A new batch of “Twitter files” released Monday indicates the Biden administration worked with Twitter to control the public conversation about COVID-19, which included censoring accounts skeptical of the vaccine.
This update is the latest in a string of internal Twitter revelations since billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter and vowed to make public any wrongdoing previous to his ownership that might have gone on behind the scenes.
Since then, Mr. Musk has released a trove of troublesome information, including evidence federal law enforcement worked closely with the social media giant to censor Americans. The Biden administration has pushed back against these allegations, but the Twitter files are not the only source giving evidence to that collusion.
Mr. Musk shared a Twitter thread Monday posted by author and journalist David Zweig, where Mr. Zweig laid out some introductory points, though Mr. Musk said more details are coming soon.
Mr. Zweig said Twitter “rigged the COVID debate” by “censoring info that was true but inconvenient to U.S. govt. policy” and “by discrediting doctors and other experts who disagreed” as well as “suppressing ordinary users, including some sharing the CDC’s *own data*.”
“So far the Twitter Files have focused on evidence of Twitter’s secret blacklists; how the company functioned as a kind of subsidiary of the FBI; and how execs rewrote the platform’s rules to accommodate their own political desires,” he said. “The United States government pressured Twitter and other social media platforms to elevate certain content and suppress other content about Covid-19.”
Mr. Zweig, who says he personally reviewed internal documents, said both the Trump and Biden administrations participated in the collusion. He said Mr. Trump’s team were more worried about “panic buying” at grocery stores while Mr. Biden was interested in shutting down accounts skeptical of the vaccine.
“When the Biden admin took over, one of their first meeting requests with Twitter executives was on COVID. The focus was on ‘anti-vaxxer accounts,’” he said. “In the summer of 2021, President Biden said social media companies were ‘killing people’ for allowing vaccine misinformation.”
“But Twitter did suppress views — many from doctors and scientific experts – that conflicted with the official positions of the White House,” he added. “As a result, legitimate findings and questions that would have expanded the public debate went missing.”
The Twitter files have sparked calls for accountability. House Oversight Committee Republicans, who will have the majority come January, promised an investigation into the Twitter censorship and the Biden administration’s role earlier this month. This latest dump will likely only add fuel to that fire.
“Committee Republicans continue to investigate whether U.S. government officials have participated in suppression and censorship of lawful speech in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Reports continue to surface that social media companies acted on behest of government agencies and officials when removing, restricting, or disclaiming content,” the House Republicans wrote in a letter earlier this month. “The American people and their elected representatives must know the extent to which their government has engaged in prohibited censorship to expose and prevent this unlawful conduct.”
As The Center Square previously reported, critics have also lambasted the FBI after Mr. Musk’s document release appeared to show the FBI gave social media companies information leading them to believe the Hunter Biden story could be part of a disinformation campaign. Social media companies banned or shadow banned the Hunter Biden story just before the last presidential election. Two years later, more and more details of the Hunter Biden story have been verified by leading news outlets.
But the idea of law enforcement pressuring social media companies on COVID is not new. House Oversight Republicans launched an investigation last month into a “taxpayer funded censorship campaign” after media reports indicated the Department of Homeland Security had been pressuring big tech companies to censor certain viewpoints on several issues, including COVID.
The lawmakers sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling out DHS in particular, saying it “leverages partnerships with left-leaning private organizations – who have received millions of dollars in federal money – to identify and then take action against political speech unfavorable to the Administration, especially around its handling of COVID-19 policy.”
Casey Harper works at The Center Square’s Washington, D.C.,