Wood House 76 Article Cited in Murthy v. Missouri Amicus Brief
Adam Candeub, a law professor at Michigan State University, submitted the brief to the U.S. Supreme Court last week in support of Twitter Files journalists involved in the case. Candeueb lists my ban from Twitter for quoting Allysia Finley’s Wall Street Journal article in July 2022 as an example of how policies heavily shaped by government pressure impeded journalists’ ability to report “verifiable or true content.”
The entire 36-page document is worth reading. The section in which my Tweet and Substack post are referenced follows:
III. The impact on journalism
“That the First Amendment speaks separately of freedom of speech and freedom of the press is no constitutional accident, but an acknowledgment of the critical role played by the press in American society.” Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1, 17 (1978) (Stewart, J., concurring). Government’s actions impeded journalists’ ability to publish on social media—a now essential function of the profession—either in the form of sharing articles or through social media posts that serve as a crucial contemporary form of journalism and reporting. Because platforms like Twitter sometimes removed or labeled reports of data (for instance, once labeling a post that simply displayed the CDC’s own data), journalists could not report on verifiable or true content. These are a few experiences:
Virality Project (VP) flagged David Zweig in June 2021, for an accurate claim that the World Health Organization (WHO) did not recommend vaccinating children. JIRA Database, supra.
Alex Gutentag was permanently suspended from Twitter for citing Pfizer’s data from its vaccine trial for children under 5—content that was nearly identical to content from Pfizer’s own press release. (@JenniferSey), Twitter (June 15, 2022), http://tinyurl.com/bdzx6saa. Twitter later reversed the decision.
In another case, a user was permanently banned from Twitter for posting a Wall Street Journal article by Alyssia Finley and a direct quote from the article. Jessica Hockett, Here We Go Again, SUBSTACK, July 6, 2022, http://tinyurl.com/3evpdhb3.
In these instances journalists were penalized by policies heavily shaped by government actors. This activity created a major chilling effect for journalists online, as retaining a platform on social media is critical to sharing one’s work and gaining professional opportunities (not to mention the public’s ability to be informed). What’s more, the more established a journalist is and the greater their following, the more they stand to lose by reporting in a manner that may run afoul of government-coerced platform policies. This significantly interferes with the press by diminishing incentives for experienced, skilled, and respected journalists from doing what their job requires: namely, investigating and writing about controversial government policies. In addition to this chilling effect, the government’s prior restraint on scientists prevented willing journalists from collecting information essential to accurate reporting. VP appears to have played a major role in a significant case of Covid-related censorship. On March 15, 2021, then-Harvard professor of medicine Martin Kulldorff tweeted, ‘‘[t]hinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should. COVID vaccines are important for older high-risk people, and their caretak-ers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children.”
“Dear Twitter Team,” a flagger from VP wrote in response to Kulldorff ’s post, “[t]his Tweet directly contradicts CDC’s advice.”
“Thanks team—we’re looking into this,” a senior Twitter Trust & Safety policy specialist responded.
Twitter then labeled Kulldorff ’s tweet as misleading and he was temporarily suspended from the plat- form. Internally, the VP identified Kulldorff, a world renowned biostatistician, as a “repeat offender.” Jira Database, supra.
Last, government censorship did not result only in removed accounts or deleted stories but also led the platforms to be ever more timid in bringing public at- tention to government threats and pressures—to which they became ever more compliant. For instance, a CIA official-turned-Twitter executive told to Twitter Attorney Stacia Cardille that in the past he would have overlooked government requests to take down accounts promoting InfoBRICS, but “our window on that is closing, given that government partners have become more aggressive on attribution and reporting on it.” Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi), Twitter, Jan. 3, 2023, http://tinyurl.com/msbc28ww.
The platforms feared government-associated non- profits too. Twitter executive, Carlos Monje, now serving as Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, expressed fear of criticizing The Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), a nonpartisan initiative housed at the German Marshall Fund, in which many former intelligence officials and politically connected individuals have leadership roles. Referring to Hamilton 68, ASD’s controversial dashboard that purported to track Russian influence on-line, Monje wrote “I also have been very frustrated in not calling out Hamilton 68 more publicly, but understand we have to play a longer game here.” Warned another Twitter executive, “We have to be careful in how much we push back on ASD publicly.” Matt Taibbi, Move Over, Jayson Blair: Twitter Files Expose Next Great Media Fraud, SUBSTACK, Jan. 27, 2023, http://tinyurl.com/2p8r3fa5.
History of my labeled tweets and suspensions ⬇️