A picture taken on May 19, 2020 in Toulouse southern France shows a protective surgical face mask as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP) (Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)
The coronavirus is a SARS virus that caused to world to come to a pause. COVID-19 was classified as a worldwide pandemic in March of 2020.
The pandemic hit when Donald J. Trump was president. His administration called on tech companies to help combat the issue of “panic buying” and to help stop misinformation from spreading. When Joe Biden became president and his administration took over nearly ten months later, the focus for tech companies shifted to focus on “anti-vaxxer accounts.”
One of the main anti-vaxxer accounts that caught the attention of the administration was Alex Berenson. He was suspended from the platform after Biden claimed that social media companies were “killing people” for allowing vaccine misinformation.
9. In the summer of 2021, president Biden said social media companies were “killing people” for allowing vaccine misinformation. Berenson was suspended hours after Biden’s comments, and kicked off the platform the following month.— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
Berenson sued Twitter for kicking him off the platform. During the legal process of the lawsuit, Twitter was compelled to release certain internal communications which showed the White House’s pressure on the social media company to take action on Berenson.
Twitter wasn’t the happiest with Biden’s wishes. After an extensive review of internal communications at the company, it was revealed that employees often debated moderation. However, the platform complied with the government by censoring doctors and scientific experts who had opposing views to the White House.
There were three main issues with Twitter’s process as to who filtered what was deemed misinformation. First, much of the content moderation was conducted by bots that were trained on machine learning and AI. Through this impressive engineering, many things were unnecessarily classified as misinformation due to the bots being too crude for nuanced work. Secondly, contractors in the Philippines also moderated content. They faced a significant error rate due to tasking non experts to adjudicate tweets on complex topics. Lastly, higher level employees at Twitter, who chose the inputs for the bots and decision trees, subjectively decided escalated cases and suspensions. In turn, legitimate content was labeled as misinformation due to individual bias.
An account which was falsely marked was Dr. Martin Kulldorff.
21. Internal emails show an “intent to action” by a moderator, saying Kulldorff’s tweet violated the company’s Covid-19 misinformation policy and claimed he shared “false information.” pic.twitter.com/lq9QOP8h27— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
Due to the “false information” that Kulldorff wrote, his tweet was slapped with a “misleading” label and all replies and likes were shut off. This limited the tweets exposure.
Another tweet, which displayed the CDC’s own data, by Kelley Kga faced the same treatment.
25. A tweet by @KelleyKga, a self-proclaimed public health fact checker, with 18K followers, was flagged as “Misleading,” and replies and likes disabled, even though it displayed the CDC’s *own data.* pic.twitter.com/8ABQzYGpXf— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
27. Tellingly, the tweet by @KelleyKga that was labeled “Misleading” was a reply to a tweet that contained actual misinformation.
Covid has never been the leading cause of death from disease in children. Yet that tweet remains on the platform, and without a “misleading” label. pic.twitter.com/vK5NpWg8KT— David Zweig (@davidzweig) December 26, 2022
45th President Donald J. Trump tweeted when he had COVID-19. In his tweet he said “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life.” In response, Jim Baker, Twitter’s Deputy General Counsel, asked Twitter executives why the tweet wasn’t considered a violation of the company’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. In response, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of Trust and Security had to explain to Baker that optimism wasn’t misinformation.
During the height of the pandemic and in recent events, Twitter has made decisions based off of the political leanings of senior staff and off of what the government wanted. Both parties allowed information to be shared that didn’t go against their pro-vaccine agenda.
In an acute emergency, if you get Covid, Dr Ardis suggests taking low doses of nicotine in the form of losenges, gum, or patches for a few days until symptoms subside