A new batch of “Twitter Files” from journalist Matt Taibbi reveals a mass conspiracy by elements of the government, academia and Big Tech to censor certain narratives about COVID-19.
The Virality Project, a coalition of academic institutions led by Stanford University, pushed harsher censorship standards on Twitter and collaborated with government agencies to classify accurate statements as “misinformation,” according to new emails published by Taibbi. The Virality Project worked with the government to launch a system that flagged millions of posts per day as misinformation for review, according to emails.
6.We’ve since learned the Virality Project in 2021 worked with government to launch a pan-industry monitoring plan for Covid-related content. At least six major Internet platforms were “onboarded” to the same JIRA ticketing system, daily sending millions of items for review.
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 17, 2023
In addition to Twitter, the Virality Project flagged content for Facebook, Google, Medium, Tiktok and Pinterest, and subsidiaries of those companies like Instagram and YouTube. Twitter agreed to join the project and first began receiving weekly “anti-vax disinformation” reports in February of 2021, according to Taibbi.
As of July 2020, Twitter’s guidance for COVID-19 content required posts to be “demonstrably false” or contain an “assertion of fact” to be censored. The Virality Project pushed Twitter towards a harsher stance, telling the company that “true stories that could fuel hesitancy” should also be actionable.
One example of content that was flagged despite not being false was concerns over vaccine passport programs. Opposition to those policies “have driven a larger anti-vaccination narrative about the loss of rights and freedoms,” Virality Project said, flagging it as a “misinformation event.”
Virality Project also flagged true stories of vaccine side effects as misinformation, including from corporate outlets like the New York Times that reported on blood clots in vaccine recipients. “Increased doubts in one manufacturer’s vaccine may lead to hesitancy about vaccination overall,” the group said.
The coalition also claimed that individuals who were “just asking questions” about vaccines or vaccine policies were engaging in a tactic “commonly used by spreaders of misinformation.”
Several government agencies, including the CDC, the State Department and the Pentagon partners with the Virality Project either directly or through intermediary groups. (RELATED: Jim Jordan Spars With Dem Rep Over Censorship Of ‘Lawful Speech’ On Twitter)
Twitter was seemingly open to the cooperation with the project. Later in February 2021, after the company began receiving the weekly disinformation reports, several top executives were invited to join the project’s reporting system.
Previous Twitter Files reporting showed that the State Department’s Global Engagement Center was flagging factual posts for Twitter as “foreign disinformation.”