By Megan Mansell Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been assured that community...
Lockdowns by Censorship
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya was a late comer to Twitter, joining in the summer of 2021. In his very first tweet, he linked to a recent article he had written where he discussed age-based mortality risks and natural immunity among other topics. His main message was powerful and flew in the face of impactful policies enacted across the country: “mass testing is an insidious form of lockdown by stealth.” Many Americans, especially parents of students, would agree.
It was revealed Wednesday that Dr. Bhattacharya (among many others) had been censored and “shadow-banned” by Twitter. Screenshots from an internal Twitter content moderation system showed that his account was tagged with a label of “Trends Blacklist.” In other words, his message would never make it to the algorithmic trending topics on Twitter’s front page.
How many people endured weeks-long quarantine because Dr. Bhattacharya’s message was suppressed on this major social media platform? How many students would have been spared the education death knell of remote learning had schools heeded his advice – or even known about it?
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I’ve spent the last 30 months in the trenches of this fight with Jay. Unlike Dr. Bhattacharya, I am not a healthcare expert. Normally I wouldn’t insert myself into someone else’s domain, but the powers that be seemed to have no problem inserting themselves into mine: they closed in on my business, my church, my kids’ education, my health, my grocery store, my gym, my coffee shop, my barber—you name it, and some government entity was there with strangling regulations or an order to shut the thing down entirely. Like Jay – we knew this was the wrong approach.
So I formed a rag-tag group of activists, analysts, experts, moms and dads trying to get us back to normal. We called our group Rational Ground. We worked to amplify common sense Covid policies across the world. An MIT doctoral group, analyzing social media data, dubbed me the leader of the anti-mask network. I wore that title with pride. We were not shy, but we tried to ground everything we did in data and strong analysis. It was a lonely and difficult fight at times but Jay was always a calm and steadying figure in our battles.
Our content was quality material people weren’t finding anywhere else, and we gained followers at a rapid rate. By fall 2020 one of those followers was Dr. Scott Atlas, who at the time was a key advisor to the Trump administration on its COVID-19 response. In fact, Dr. Atlas, a Stanford colleague of Jay’s, asked us to produce charts for him, a project we gladly undertook. These charts were televised nationally and used as evidence against the one-size-fits-all approach that had characterized the White House response up until his arrival.
President Trump lost the election and all of the momentum Dr. Atlas had won was seemingly lost. Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx stepped back in the wake of the transfer of power bringing with them more quarantines, more school closures and censorship following those of us who continued to disagree.
We had long-suspected that Jay’s account had been suppressed. Many of our colleagues had been flat out banned from these platforms for wrong-think. In the summer of 2021, my accounts on Twitter and Facebook were suspended for publishing some of our contrarian data.
In July 2021, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced, “We’ve increased disinformation research and tracking within the Surgeon General’s office. We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.” Psaki also revealed that the White House effort to suppress free speech reaches all the way to the level of senior staff for President Biden. Pressuring social media platforms to kick people like us off was merely the tip of the new censorship spear the government was honing. Numerous lawsuits have confirmed these suspicions.
The revelations about Twitter are one more mounting set of evidence that something bad was afoot. Dr. Bhattacharya expressed shock upon leaning his account had been targeted for censorship. “The thought that will keep me up tonight: censorship of scientific discussion permitted policies like school closures & a generation of children were hurt.” he tweeted. Elon Musk, who’s takeover of Twitter lead to this and a series of other revelations, replied to Jay: “The Sun is coming.”
Apparently, the cost of real sunshine is about $44 billion.
Musk embedded a YouTube video in his reply to Jay playing the 1970s hit by Boney M., “Sunny.” The jiving lyrics run:
Sunny, thank you for the truth you let me see
Sunny, thank you for the facts from A to Z
Besides Dr. Bhattacharya, truth and facts were the big victims here. More sunlight please.
Justin Hart is the founder of Rational Ground and author of the book: “Gone Viral: How Covid Drove the World Insane”