- Online publisher Medium nuked a post from technologist Aaron Ginn who cited significant data he says show that the “community-based spread and airborne transmission” of coronavirus is “not a threat.”
- The post was promptly moved to a right-wing blog site before Twitter warned users that the post contains potentially harmful information.
- Critics on Twitter deconstructed some of Ginn’s arguments, noting that he misconstrued faulty data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention to come to his conclusions.
The administrators behind the online publishing platform Medium removed a post Saturday night that asked readers to consider what the author believes is evidence over hysteria surrounding the coronavirus panic.
Silicon Valley technologist Aaron Ginn published a post Saturday laying out research from various organizations suggesting that the “community-based spread and airborne transmission” of coronavirus, or COVID-19, is “not a threat.” Medium nuked the post shortly thereafter.
Academics and others on Twitter argued that Ginn’s data is wrong.
A link to the post now directs readers to a page containing a 410 error warning that says: “This post is under investigation or was found in violation of the Medium Rules.” (RELATED: FDA Approves Coronavirus Test That Can Provide Results In 45 Minutes)
Ginn’s article cites research from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), as well as recent studies that have been conducted on the virus, which began in Wuhan, China, and has killed roughly 8,000 people worldwide as of March 20.
“I’m quite experienced at understanding virality, how things grow, and data. In my vocation, I’m most known for popularizing the ‘growth hacking movement’ in Silicon Valley that specializes in driving rapid and viral adoption of technology products,'” Ginn argues before making several provocative arguments.
Ginn cites a WHO study from Feb. 24, 2019, that he says suggests COVID-19 doesn’t “spread as easily as we first thought or the media had us believe.” A person has a 1-5% chance of catching the virus if they come into contact with someone who tests positive for the virus, Ginn notes, citing the study. The infection is based on the type contact.
The majority of viral infections come from prolonged exposures in confined spaces with other infected individuals. Person-to-person and surface contact is by far the most common cause. From the WHO report, “When a cluster of several infected people occurred in China, it was most often (78–85%) caused by an infection within the family by droplets and other carriers of infection in close contact with an infected person.
Medium declined to provide a comment to the Daily Caller News Foundation, citing privacy reasons. Ginn, a tech guru who worked for Sen. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, moved the post to right-wing financial blog Zero Hedge, though his Medium post is archived.
Ginn did not immediately responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.
And it looks like Twitter has done exactly what we prefer. Presumably they’ve decelerated it so it won’t get recommended or any social media benefits (velocity/reach) unless explicitly pulled up by a user and at the same time they’re warning their users. Bravo Twitter ???????? pic.twitter.com/xulU7bnIah
— Jason Kint (@jason_kint) March 22, 2020
Twitter placed a warning on the Zero Hedge version warning users that the link may be unsafe. “The link you are trying to access has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful or associated with a violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service,” the warning reads.
Twitter knocked Zero Hedge off its platform in February after the website published an article that month suggesting a Chinese scientist was behind the fast-spreading coronavirus. Zero Hedge’s article was titled “Is This The Man Behind The Global Coronavirus Pandemic?”
Ginn’s post received significant pushback before Medium took action. Max Kennerly, a tort attorney, pointed out what he said was a significant flaw in Ginn’s data.
“The Medium post wrongly claims the CDC says 12% of COVID-19 cases require hospitalization,” Kennerly noted in a tweet Saturday. “The CDC really said 20.7-31.4% hospitalized, 4.9-11.5% in the ICU. UK estimates are similar.”
Kennerly’s tweet refers to a point Ginn’s makes arguing that “[e]arly reports from CDC, suggest that 12% of COVID-19 cases need some form of hospitalization, which is lower than the projected severity rate of 20%, with 80% being mild cases.”
Ginn cited a March 18 CDC report, which notes in one table that 20% to 31% of people as of Feb. 12 to March 16 with coronavirus were hospitalized. Other critics made similar points.
Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, told his Twitter followers to take the Medium post with a grain of salt because Ginn is neither a virologist nor an epidemiologist.
1. I hate to invest precious time on taking apart the atrocious @aginnt article pictured below, but it is getting too much traction here and even in traditional media.
This thread could be far longer than it is, but I’m doing my best to only discuss the most glaring flaws. pic.twitter.com/EFA7ATQRbX
— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) March 22, 2020
“You can give me all the stock market data in the world; I don’t have the background to make the best use of it because I fundamentally do not understand how the market works or how to take advantage of that understanding,” Bergstrom wrote in a tweet Saturday.
Other critics expressed similar doubts. Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a nonprofit providing organizations guidance on digital policies, praised Twitter for its decision to warn users about the Zero Hedge post.
“Again I love how this played out. Bravo Twitter,” he said Sunday on Twitter.
Kint added: “Here is my $$$ hypothetical question that maybe if I’m lucky Twitter will answer. If the piece hadn’t been removed from Medium and forced to Zerohedge, would Twitter still have warned users before they clicked to the Medium post?”
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