() — The 19th installment of the “Twitter Files” document dump raises questions about whether social media and the government censored valid information during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The documents are part of Twitter owner Elon Musk’s effort to document how the company was run before he took over.
Journalist Matt Taibbi, who posted the new Twitter thread, released a trove of emails between Twitter and the Stanford-based Virality Project.
The Virality Project is a coalition of researchers hired to clamp down on rumors and misinformation about COVID-19 on social media.
Some of what the Virality Project was advocating for censorship, however, wasn’t misinformation.
In an email from June 2021, a representative from the Virality Project wrote to Twitter leadership, “this week we were able to hone in on ongoing tactics and themes — including an increasingly popular narrative around natural immunity.”
But experts say developing immunity after getting COVID-19 is not a narrative, it’s a proven fact.
“I would say today really shows us, especially the concept of natural immunity, which is a concept for thousands and thousands of years, it works,” infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi said. “That type of information was suppressed as encouraged by the Biden administration. And that doesn’t make sense to me.”
Gandhi believes the intentions of the Virality Project were good because they were promoting the vaccine, but she says censoring of factual information was wrong and dangerous.
Gandhi says she is worried Americans might not trust information from the government in the event of another pandemic.
“Yes. I am actually very worried. And the reason I get worried is when you look at polls of the American people across swaths of society, there has been a massive decrease in public health trust,” Gandhi said. “The CDC is sitting around 32% trust among all Americans. That does not bode well for Americans to take the measles vaccine. Or give their child the polio vaccine. Or to respond to a new threat.”
Ghandi says censorship should never be a component of public health, but these documents also make clear that government officials and tech giants were also grappling with a rapidly changing landscape and evolving science.
And also battling actual misinformation about a new and misunderstood virus.
“At the beginning of the vaccine, there was a lot of misinformation about how these vaccines worked,” said ZDNet tech reporter Dan Patterson. “And what they were trying to do is find out what’s real, and then make sure that false information doesn’t get accidentally amplified.”