The suppression of inconvenient truths about COVID on Twitter

Pfizer and the White House engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to pressure social media companies into censoring truthful information about COVID-19 and vaccines.

That’s the revelation now emerging from Twitter’s internal company communications, thrown open by new owner Elon Musk, as well as from the discovery process in a lawsuit filed against the Biden administration by the states of Missouri and Louisiana together with several individual plaintiffs.

The purpose of the censorship was to protect the untruthful narrative that the science was settled and the experts were unanimous. Anyone who said otherwise was “killing people,” in the words of President Joe Biden on July 16, 2021.

Biden’s remark was part of a public effort from the White House podium to pressure Facebook and other platforms into increasing their censorship of certain conversations about COVID-19.

But the non-public coercion had been going on for months.

White House director of digital media Rob Flaherty berated a Facebook executive in a March 14, 2021, email. “We are gravely concerned that your service is one of the top drivers of vaccine hesitancy — period,” Flaherty wrote. “We want to know that you’re trying, we want to know how we can help, and we want to know that you’re not playing a shell game.” Then, in a remark that had a distinctly gangster-like ring to it, Flaherty added, “This would all be a lot easier if you would just be straight with us.”

Allow me to remind Americans who have forgotten, after three years of relentless government bullying, that the United States Constitution is in force all the time and it never takes a sick day. The Constitution enumerates the limited powers of the federal government, and then, for emphasis, there’s a Bill of Rights — 10 amendments that specifically list things the government is not allowed to do.

At the very top of that list: the government is not allowed to abridge the freedom of speech.

In his March 14 email, Flaherty linked to a Washington Post article that cited Facebook’s own research on “the spread of ideas that contribute to vaccine hesitancy.” The Biden administration seemed to think Facebook was holding back some high-tech tool to control people’s words and thoughts. The subject line of Flaherty’s email was “You are hiding the ball.”

Under this government duress, Facebook promised policy changes. The executive wrote back to Flaherty a week later to say the company would be “removing vaccine misinformation” and also “reducing the virality of content discouraging vaccines that does not contain actionable misinformation.”

Facebook promised to suppress the sharing of “often-true content” that “can be framed” as alarming. The company also promised to remove “Groups, Pages and Accounts” that “disproportionately” posted and shared this type of “often-true content.”

Flaherty wrote again on April 9, demanding to know what the company was doing to ensure that it was not “making our country’s vaccine hesitancy problem worse.” The White House official warned the Facebook executive not to backslide on information-control efforts. “I want some assurances,” Flaherty wrote. “Understood,” the Facebook executive meekly responded.

These email exchanges and others were uncovered during the discovery phase of Missouri v. Biden and described in a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by two of the participants in the lawsuit, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Jenin Younes. Kheriaty is a physician specializing in psychiatry, and an expert on medical ethics. Younes is an attorney at the New Civil Liberties Alliance, representing Kheriaty and others who were censored and banned on social media platforms at the direction of the government for “expressing views that were scientifically well-founded but diverged from the government line — for instance, that children and adults with natural immunity from prior infection don’t need COVID vaccines.”

Someone else who was determined to conceal such views was Dr. Scott Gottlieb, according to the latest revelations from the Twitter Files.

You may have seen Gottlieb making one of his countless appearances on news and interview shows, or voicing his expert views on COVID public policy as a contributor to the CNBC business news channel. Gottlieb was formerly the head of the Food & Drug Administration. He’s also a senior board member at Pfizer.

Independent journalist Alex Berenson, who was banned from Twitter after he reported truthful information about the waning efficacy of the COVID vaccine — a vaccine that brought Pfizer nearly half of its $81 billion in sales in 2021 — was invited by Musk to search the company’s internal correspondence and report on what he found.

He found that on Aug. 27, 2021, Scott Gottlieb “saw a tweet he didn’t like, a tweet that might hurt sales of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine.”

The tweet came from Dr. Brett Giroir, who, like Gottlieb, is a former FDA commissioner. “It’s now clear #COVID19 natural immunity is superior to #vaccine immunity by A LOT,” Giroir wrote. “There’s no science justification for #vax proof if a person had prior infection.” Giroir called on the CDC director and the president to “follow the science.”

The post was not misinformation, and it didn’t violate Twitter’s terms of service. But Gottlieb immediately began pulling strings to get it censored.

Berenson reports that Gottlieb, who was paid $365,000 by Pfizer in 2021, emailed Twitter’s top Washington lobbyist, Todd O’Boyle, who was also Twitter’s liaison to the White House. “This is the kind of stuff that’s corrosive,” Gottlieb wrote, complaining that Giroir drew a “sweeping conclusion” from one study in Israel. He told O’Boyle the tweet “will end up going viral and driving news coverage.”

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O’Boyle used an internal communications channel at Twitter to rush Gottlieb’s email to the “Strategic Response” team, identifying Gottlieb as “the former FDA commissioner” without mentioning that he was also a highly paid board member at Pfizer. The Twitter team reviewed the tweet and found no violation of the company’s misinformation policy, but then slapped a “misleading” label on it anyway, sharply reducing its visibility.

For the record, a significant number of extremely well qualified scientists and medical doctors disagreed with the government’s (and Pfizer’s) view that everyone should get a COVID vaccine.

Censorship prevented you from hearing that. Until now.

Write and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley

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