On Friday, Matt Taibbi, one of several independent journalists tasked by Elon Musk with combing through internal communications at Twitter, dropped another file, this one dealing with censoring the truth about COVID-19 and vaccines. He calls it “The Great COVID-19 Lie Machine,” and it will make you, no pun intended, sick. This might be the worst one of all, since it silenced information we should have had before making decisions about our own bodies and health.
These particular messages deal with a group called the Virality Project, which Taibbi describes as “a sweeping, cross-platform effort to monitor billions of social media posts by Stanford University, federal agencies, and a slew of (often state-funded) NGOs [non-government agencies].” It would flag posts as “potential violations” or disinformation “events” that mentioned such things as “reports of vaccinated individuals contracting COVID-19 anyway,” “natural immunity,” “leaked from a lab,” even “worrisome jokes.” (!!!)
“Stories of true vaccine side effects” were flagged by the Virology Project as “actionable content.”
Taibbi reports that 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.” (Jira is a commercial software tool for project collaboration.)
And if there’s a money quote in all this, it might be his Tweet #9: “Though the Virality Project reviewed content on a mass scale for Twitter, Google/YouTube, Facebook/Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest, it knowingly targeted true material and legitimate political opinion, while actually being factually wrong itself.”
Taibbi calls this “a secret, unified effort to control political messaging.” He says that it “accelerated the evolution of digital censorship, moving it from judging truth/untruth to a new, scarier model, openly focused on political narrative at the expense of fact.”
This is consistent with what we’ve been saying for a long time: that so-called “fact”-checkers identifying “disinformation” didn’t care about what was true. They had an agenda that was dependent on a particular narrative, and so they had to suppress any truth at odds with that narrative while shoveling us a steaming load of hooey.
The Virality Project got rolling right after President Biden took office. The group at Stanford wrote to Twitter to discuss the project, and by February 17, Twitter had agreed to join in the fun and received its first weekly report on “anti-vax disinformation,” which contained a number of items that were TRUE.
On February 22, VP had a Zoom call to welcome Twitter executives Yoel Roth and Brian Clarke. Taibbi includes a link to this in the file. And by March, VP had gained “visibility” to alternative platforms such as Gab, Parler, Telegram and Gettr, achieving “near-total surveillance of the social media landscape.” By this time, Twitter personnel had adopted the language of VP, talking about “campaigns against vaccine passports,” “fear of mandatory immunizations,” and “misuse of official reporting tools” as “potential violations.”
Through July 2020, Twitter’s official internal policy on COVID required a story to be “demonstrably false” or contain an “assertion of fact” before they would act. But the Virality Project told them that the category of “Standard Vaccine Misinformation on Your Platform” should also include “TRUE STORIES that could fuel hesitancy [to get vaccinated].” (Emphasis ours.) These included stories such as “celebrity deaths after vaccine” and school closures due to post-vaccine illness. Regarding true stories of vaccine side effects, they told Twitter, “This content is not clearly mis or disinformation, but it may be malinformation (exaggerated or misleading). Also included in this bucket are often true posts that could fuel vaccine hesitancy, such as individual countries banning certain vaccines.”
The Virality Project expressed concern to Twitter that the “vaccine passport narrative” had “driven a larger anti-vaccination narrative about the loss of rights and freedoms.”
Now why would Americans be concerned about the loss of rights and freedoms? The Virality Project existed to get needles into their arms, even if that meant preventing their access to true information --- including from top virologists --- that might make them think twice.
VP even warned against people “just asking questions,” because this was a tactic “commonly used by spreaders of misinformation.” And it talked about “repeat offenders,” such as Robert Kennedy, Jr., saying that they had a “large volume of material that is almost always reportable.”
They praised themselves about being able to hone in on an “increasingly popular narrative about natural immunity.” Yet in choosing to stifle this, they were, in Taibbi’s words, “repeatedly, extravagantly wrong.” Even as scientific consensus about natural immunity started changing, and research was showing that natural immunity provided at least as strong an immune response as vaccination, VP shunned this fact because “’natural immunity’ is a key narrative...among anti-vaccine activists.” Never mind that the anti-vaxxers happened to be CORRECT on this point.
This activity just went on and on, and the next year, on April 27, 2022, VP issued a report calling for “a rumor-control mechanism to address nationally trending narratives,” and a “Misinformation and Disinformation Center of Excellence” to be conveniently housed within CISA, at the Department of Homeland Security. (Never mind how wildly unconstitutional this link to government is.) It was the next day that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced in a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing the creation of a “Disinformation Governance Board.” (That was the “supercalifragilisticexpial-
Even in its very last report, Taibbi reports, VP said it was “misinformation” to suggest the vaccine does not prevent transmission or that governments were planning to introduce vaccine passports. Both of these assertions turned out to be TRUE. This project really had nothing to do with what is true, only with what they wanted you to think.
Recall that Stanford University was also involved in the 2020 Election Integrity Project (EIP). Remember them? They were to our elections what the Virality Project was to COVID.
Starting at Taibbi’s tweet #37, he uses information in the Twitter messages to link VP and EIP, and you also see how VP evolves as it works with more government agencies, including the Office of the Surgeon General and the CDC. This part is especially infuriating, because it shows their work becoming more enmeshed with our own government to conduct censorship by proxy. The “anti-disinformation” mission now is almost exclusively domestic in its focus.
Taibbi sums up his report this way: “America’s information mission went from counterterrorism abroad, to stopping ‘foreign interference’ from reaching domestic audiences, to 80% domestic content, much of it true. The ‘Disinformation Governance Board’ is out; but truth-policing is not.”
As you probably know, the advertiser-supported version of this very newsletter has for some time been under the thumb of social media platforms that try to suppress our content by demonetizing it. Advertisers have literally been warned away from our site and some other fine news outlets. You’ve seen now that stories can be absolutely true and still be flagged.
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