Twitter files: Huge censorship project unleashed against politically incorrect COVID-19 speech

Internet watchdog Stanford Internet Observatory has embarked on a full-scale effort during the pandemic to rid social media platforms of unpopular views related to COVID, regardless of whether the posts are true, according to the latest installment of the “Twitter Files”. .

Internal emails, revealed by journalist Matt Taibbi on Friday, show how the Stanford Internet Observatory’s Virality Project coordinated with several other academic institutions and government-funded nonprofits to launch a massive operation to monitor vaccine disinformation and proliferation Shaping platform politics to rid the web of views that went against the liberal mainstream.

Mr Taibbi said Twitter was one of six social media platforms that have partnered with the Virality Project to monitor COVID-related posts during the pandemic.

In addition to a direct link to flag posts, the collaboration also included a regular roundup of vaccination misinformation circulating across platforms, lists of repeat offenders, and lists of “true content that may encourage vaccine hesitancy.”

Some of the true information the Virality Project sought to ban included “viral posts by individuals expressing vaccine reluctance” and/or “stories of real vaccine side effects.”

The watchdog also targeted discussions about vaccination certificates, warning that such posts have “promoted a broader anti-vaccination narrative of loss of rights and freedoms”.

Mr Taibbi said the project amounted to an “Orwellian proof-of-concept” that “accelerated the evolution of digital censorship, shifting it from truth/false judgments to a new, more spooky model that openly relied on political narratives.” Cost of Facts Focused.”

The Stanford Internet Observatory did not respond to a request for comment.

The Twitter files are the product of Elon Musk, who opened the company’s email vault to select journalists after taking over Twitter in October 2022. They have the company’s politically biased behavior and partnership with federal officials during the 2020 presidential campaign and during the 19 pandemic.

In February 2021, the Virality Project emailed Twitter executives to announce the newly formed partnership and open a conversation about “how we can best collaborate with the Twitter team on this work.”

“Our goal would be to have a line of communication with your team through which we can spread any vaccine-related disinformation narratives that we notice either on Twitter or on other platforms,” ​​a Virality Project representative wrote in an email to company executives .

The Virality Project gained access to Twitter’s internal ticketing system to flag posts and announced in a March 2021 email that it would “begin” its notification process on other platforms.

Mr Taibbi and his colleague Michael Shellenberger, a Twitter Files journalist, appeared before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government last week and warned of an “industrial censorship complex” that would undermine Americans’ freedom of expression.

In December, the two journalists began exposing the extent to which the federal government was working with Twitter company executives to moderate content on the platform.

The Twitter files have also revealed what Mr Taibbi describes as a vast web of censorship that encompassed online speech surveillance programs spearheaded by NGOs to suppress speech that was outside of the mainstream.

“This is a serious threat to people of all political persuasions,” Mr Taibbi said. “The First Amendment and the American public accustomed to the right to speak is the left’s best defense against the industrial censorship complex. If anything emerges from the Twitter files, there is a risk that we will lose this most precious right, without which all democratic rights are impossible.”

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