Twitter’s “Tricky” Timing Problem: Lawsuit Reveals Back Channel with CDC to Coordinate Censorship

Twitter Logo“Tricky.” Over the course of 110 pages in a federal complaint, that one descriptive word seemed to stand out among the exchanges between social media executives and public health officials on censoring public viewpoints. The exchange reveals long-suspected coordination between the government and these social media companies to manage a burgeoning censorship system. Twitter just reportedly suspended another doctor who sought to raise concerns over Pfizer Covid records. Former New York Times science reporter Alex Berenson is also suing Twitter over his suspension after raising dissenting views to the CDC. In the meantime, Twitter is rolling out new procedures to combat “misinformation” in the upcoming elections — a move that has some of us skeptical.

The recently disclosed exchange between defendant Carol Crawford, the CDC’s Chief of digital media, revealed a back channel with Twitter and other companies to censor “unapproved opinions” on social media.  The “tricky” part may be due to the fact that, during that week of March 25, 2021, then CEO Jack Dorsey was testifying on such censorship before Congress and insisting that “we don’t have a censoring department.”  It seems that any meeting on systemic censorship with the government would have to wait until after Dorsey denied that such systemic censorship existed.

The exchange is part of the evidence put forward by leading doctors who are alleging a systemic private-government effort to censor dissenting scientific or medical views. The lawsuit filed by Missouri and Louisiana was joined by experts, including Drs. Jayanta Bhattacharya (Stanford University) and Martin Kulldorff (Harvard University). Bhattacharya objected this week to the suspension of Dr. Clare Craig after she raised concerns about Pfizer trial documents.

Those doctors were the co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocated for a more focused Covid response that targeted the most vulnerable population rather than widespread lockdowns and mandates. Many are now questioning the efficacy and cost of the massive lockdown as well as the real value of masks or the rejection of natural immunities as an alternative to vaccination.  Yet, these experts and others were attacked for such views just a year ago. Some found themselves censored on social media for challenging claims of Dr. Fauci and others.

The Great Barrington Declaration was not the only viewpoint deemed dangerous. Those who alleged that the virus may have begun in a lab in China were widely denounced and the views barred from being uttered on social media platforms. It was later learned that a number of leading experts raised this theory with Fauci and others early in the pandemic.

Fauci is accused of quickly scuttling such discussion and critics point to his own alleged approval of gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab. Fauci and other leading experts now admit that the lab theory is a real possibility, even if they do not agree that it is the best explanation.   Social media companies like Facebook declared that the previously banned “conspiracy theory” would now be allowed to be discussed. Yet, some in the media continued to push the media to avoid discussing it. The New York Times science writer Apoorva Mandavilli declared the theory “racist” even as Fauci and others were saying that it is now considered a possible explanation.

Indeed, many of the views that the media attacked as conspiracy theories or debunked are now again being seriously considered. That includes claims of adverse responses to the vaccines, natural immunity protection, and the psychological costs from masking or isolation, particularly among children. None of these views are inviolate or beyond question — any more than the official accounts were at the time. Rather, they were systemically “disappeared” from social media – pushed to the far extremes of public and academic discourse.

The First Amendment is designed to prevent the government from censoring speech. While the new lawsuit will face legal challenges, it has already forced previously unknown government-corporate coordination into the public view.

While the CDC now admits that it made serious mistakes during the pandemic, it allegedly worked with companies to ban opposing views. Those who sought to raise these questions found their accounts suspended. There is every reason for the CDC to combat what it considers false information through its own postings and outreach programs. However, the involvement in censoring dissenting views is deeply troubling.

That brings us back to the “tricky” part. The request for the meeting was made on March 18, 2021. That week, Dorsey and other CEOs were to appear at a House hearing to discuss “misinformation” on social media and their “content modification” policies. I had just testified on private censorship in circumventing the First Amendment as a type of censorship by surrogate. Dorsey and the other CEOs were asked about my warning of a “little brother problem, a problem which private entities do for the government which it cannot legally do for itself.” Dorsey insisted that there was no such censorship office or effort.

The new lawsuit sheds new light on that testimony. It now appears that the CDC was actively feeding disapproved viewpoints to these companies, including a list of tweets that the CDC regarded as misinformation. In one email, Twitter senior manager for public policy Todd O’Boyle asked Crawford to help identify tweets to be censored and emphasized that the company was “looking forward to setting up regular chats.”

Facebook also received lists of “offensive” posts to be “dealt with.” Facebook trained government officials in using its “CrowdTangle” system used by “health departments [to] flag potential vaccine misinformation” to allow the company to review and possibly remove it. It added that “this is similar to how governments and fact-checkers use CrowdTangle ahead of elections….”

That was another eye-raising reference since these companies were criticized for killing the Hunter Biden laptop story before the election. The story was blocked as presumed “Russian disinformation,” a move that Dorsey admitted in the March hearing was a mistake. Now, a year later, story is accepted not just as legitimate but potentially a serious threat for the Biden Administration.

Whatever the outcome of the litigation, the filing raises, again, whether our concept of state censorship and a state media are outmoded. The last few years have seen a striking uniformity in the barring of certain political and policy viewpoints, including dissenting medical or scientific views that could potentially protect lives. That occurred without any central ministry of information or coercive state laws. It was done by mutual agreement and shared values between the government and these companies.

What was not known were the moving parts in what has been arguably the most successful censorship system in our history. To some extent, no direction was needed beyond the periodic announcements of figures like Fauci or the CDC, which were treated as gospel and not to be challenged. Even when Fauci was criticized for reversing himself on key issues like the wearing of masks or their efficacy, it did not change the concerted effort to suppress opposing views.

The “tricky” part for the public is how to deal with the circumvention of the First Amendment in a system of censorship by surrogates. Outsourcing the suppression of opposing views threatens the same core values in our government. Just as the CDC overstepped its bounds in mandatory moratoriums on evictions, it should not be allowed to exercise control over free speech, directly or indirectly. It’s mandate to ensure “a Healthy World–Through Prevention” should not apply to unhealthy thoughts.


157 thoughts on “Twitter’s “Tricky” Timing Problem: Lawsuit Reveals Back Channel with CDC to Coordinate Censorship”

  1. “The “tricky” part”
    Nope, very simple. It’s a clear violation of the first amendment and those doing it need to be held accountable.

  2. “. . . coordination between the government and these social media companies to manage a burgeoning censorship system.”

    So much for the fiction that Twitter, Facebook, et al. only suspend those who violate their Terms of Service.

      1. Yep! Government and big companies working together to run a country is the Definition of Fascism as stated by Benito Mussolini, the man who coined the term.

  3. “Jonathan Turley needs to pay attention to his own back yard, so to speak. He should have Darren send him daily lists of the comments that are deleted.”

    ATS just a short while ago you complained about people telling others what to do and presentl you are doing the same. You are a hypocrite and have a double standard.

  4. Big Brother is far more nuanced than George Orwell imagined. Today, specifically Leftist activists in government coordinate with Leftist activists across communication and information channels, in order to censor information and suppress contradictory opinions. We are being managed through the unholy alliance of private industry and big government.

    The fatal mistake was remaining passive as the far Left took over the public education system, Hollywood, and controlled most public discourse through social media. Even the information you can find through Google search engines filters through a Left wing lens. This is why I have so many bookmarks; information quickly becomes impossible to find if it’s contrary to the official Democrat position.

    We walk the knife’s edge. The Daily Wire has experienced success in their forays in film, but as far as I know, these offerings are only available through their website. It’s a start. Elon Musk might course correct Twitter…or he might engineer a competing platform that will flatten Twitter.

    A lesson is being lost here. The government managed the population by telling us what we needed to hear in order to comply. This was a short term success but long term disaster, as Americans no longer trust the CDC or the government in general as a source of information. We were told the virus began in a wet market in Wuhan. We were told there were no signs of gain of function research in the genome. We were told the US never funded or knew about gain of function. We were told that allegations that SARS-CoV2 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was racist and xenophobic. All of this was not only false, but was known to be either false, or that there were valid opposing views, at the time. Worse, these deflections actively protected the Chinese Communist Party from accepting responsibility or paying reparations to the world.

    The vaccine protected against the original SARS-CoV2. However, when did the CDC discover that the virus replicated in such a way as to produce variants at an extremely rapid rate? That high rate of variance would create pressure to evolve a spike protein that could circumvent immunity. What did they know, and when did they know it? Did this come as a surprise, and the information simply evolved? We are still being told that the vaccine reduces the severity of disease, based on data that studied earlier variants. The original vaccine is like the flu vaccine from 8 years ago. Treating people who recovered from a more recent variant like they are some leper, compared with someone vaccinated with the original variant, makes no sense. I know of a man who was in terrible agony in the ER, yet his family was barred from seeing him because they weren’t vaccinated with an out-of-date Covid vaccine. Where’s the sense in that?

    If the virus had escaped from a US government research facility, and the US had lied about it, failed to warn anyone, and covered it up, until the pandemic became global, and then evolved to be endemic, do you think the world would just accept this? Would the US have failed to apologize or to provide relief funding?

    I long thought that N95 masks were better ill-fitting cloth face masks, but that at least the latter would catch some infectious droplets if you’re sick, like holding a handkerchief to your face. Research has proven that a cloth face mask is just a facial decoration with zero protective benefit. I have not read the latest data on the N95. Data is supposed to change your mind. Yet, I got a letter from my son’s school that face masks would be required for the next 10 days. Why? They do literally zero to protect the kids, and have proven to lead to harmful effects in kids, including making it harder to understand what someone is saying, inability to see facial expressions including a smile, and worse of all, becoming a mess if a kid has a runny nose. I cannot imagine what wearing a cloth mask would feel like after 6 hours in a hot and humid climate. After all this time, the people who lectured us to follow the science are still not following the science.

  5. Blatant pandering by Biden and the Dems…again. Will voters never learn? Remember Warnock and his promise to send taxpayers a check for $2000 if he was elected? Is nothing illegal anymore? This system is broken when politicians can buy your vote and no one cares to push back.

    1. Is nothing illegal anymore?

      Depends if you are black and/or gay. For example a gay black guy killed 3 other gay black men by hitting them with a borrowed car, and sent a fourth gay black guy to the hospital with serious injuries. thankfully it was not a hate crime, because neither gays nor blacks are capable of hating blacks and/or gays. Had this gay black guy committed a hate crime, that would have been a national news story for 6 months minimum. Black Lives Lies Matter!

      Such is life in America with our Moral Scolds (TM) shoving down our collective throats their dogmas as to what constitutes unpardonable sins. Terminating life (in utero, the elderly, etc) is not one of them. But of course.No comment from black Lesbian Chicago mayor who is likely pressing Chicago’s DA to let this gay black walk gratis.

      The video of Travis Dunbar plowing the men with his car is circulating online. Gruesome event

      I got something for you.’ Moments later, a car traveling 60 mph hit four people in front of South Shore bar, killing three of them
      In announcing murder charges against Tavis Dunbar, 34, police said they were still without a motive and have no evidence yet that the attack was a hate crime.

      1. I think it was De Tocqueville that observed the United State system will work as designed, until the politicians figure out they can bribe the people with their own money.
        I wanted to dope slap Biden when he said the loan give away was better than the Trump Tax cuts. The Stupid leftist use the trope all the time. They are so stupid they think giving money people is exactly like allowing people to keep a little more the the money that is already theirs.

    2. You mean as an emergency in a pandemic when the unemployment rate had skyrocketed?

      1. “. . . the unemployment rate had skyrocketed?”

        Because statist politicians, directed by the power-lusting Fauci, *forced* businesses to close.

        That, plus forcing schools to close, was a monumentally irrational and destructive political diktat.

  6. The college loan scam is easy to correct. Restrict all lenders from loaning for college. Force the universities to use their endowments to make loans to students , after congress lifts the law that forbids college loans from being discharged by bankruptcy.

  7. If remarks attributed to “New York Times science writer Apoorva Mandavilli” suggesting any talk of a Chinese lab leak as “racism” are indeed hers, then she needs to publicly defend her position or retract it, and apologize for her disgusting remarks. I will not be holding my breath.

  8. Thank you Professor Turley for another well reasoned and thought provoking column. In some ways, your column validates many concerns we had about Twitter and why we long ago closed our Twitter accounts. It didn’t take too long to sense the censorship and the Twitter “truth ministry” to understand we were in the wrong place. Likewise we long ago cancelled any and all Facebook accounts. Social media participation for me is occasionally posting a comment here.

  9. Facebook and Twitter are now the public square, and they are government actors perpetrating censorship on behalf of the Democratic party. This is the modus operandi of the Democratic Party. It is controlled by individuals who were not taught the importance of the First Amendment. They raise money complaining about “threats to democracy” while they are the ones who have done more to subvert democracy than anyone could have imagined. Please support unwoke media at all costs.

    1. That’s the kicker though: they *aren’t* the public square – they are companies – every user of their services signs a mandatory, legally binding terms of service agreement to use their platforms, and they have very good teams of lawyers writing their documents. Unfortunately, the users are the rubes in this scenario, the CEOs’ butts are covered. The evidence of collusion with government agencies – now that is a different, more interesting matter to me, personally.

      1. Well not all the users are rubes….tens of millions were forced to FB to become users under “information duress” I.e…… wanna know if school is closed for a storm? ….check the schools Facebook page. Wanna watch live school board meetings?… Get a Facebook account. want notice of a last minute govt meeting..? Go to facebook. Wanna know when the next DRO sale is on the local military base? Follow the squadrons face book page. Now before any one claims I should be able to ” follow my government” on fb without joining….tell that to the ppl around here. Fb got so many users to collect data on precisely bc govt made it a public square and then some. “Follow us on facebook” calls and recruiting by the govt itself….posting critical info on fb before and if ever on their own govt website. …

  10. OT: Who would have standing to challenge Biden’s action regarding student loans? He claims authority under the Heroes act of 2003, which seems dubious. But even assuming he lacks authority, who has standing?

    1. @Daniel

      I believe, as with Biden’s other moves to sway voters right before election time, the Courts do. They will likely find this unconstitutional – but only after the midterms. I suspect the administration is perfectly aware of this and simply do not care. They’ll just blame the evil courts for foiling their generosity again, and have more fodder for dissolving the courts with their constituents. You can’t win with tyrants. They will not stop. All we can do is unseat them. Just my opinion.

      Other posters can likely provide more detailed analysis.

      1. The courts don’t have standing to file a challenge. They will hear a case brought by someone with standing to file a challenge.

        1. as to standing…Well congressmen did try this not long ago and with the notion in the constitution spending must originate in the house. (It was a bait n switch bill from the Senate ….the court I think found standing …..But didn”t care about the Bait n switch? Don’t quote me.)……

          But to be novel maybe Medicare people have standing ????? Since Obama care federalized student loans and set the interest rate…at @6%. Specifically to subsidize medicare. And ppl on Medicare keep seeing their portion go up up up….bc Medicare’s money is running down. Of course if the seniors did have standing then the whole “generational” warfare ppl theorize about might get attention. Then again the litigation about the individual mandate is was bc they integrated system would fail without it funding reasons….so then maybe ppl under the mandate could intervene too.

          maybe another novel group could have standing ….like military recruits who were woo wood into joining the military for “education” benifits….just to find out they would not have had to endure military service for an education.

          Another group might be the banks…..bc I think the federal guaranteed loans are just that….so banks are going to want their spread. All of it.

          Maybe I have standing. I drive a 21 year old car…but my adult daughter has graduated college without student loans. we didn’t want the burden of loans on her o r us. …. Now we’ll be taxed for other p pl’s loans? Come on man!

          But lesson learned for the siblings….no one’s being bamboozled by military recruiters…why b uy the cow when you can get the milk for free.

          1. No doubt you also object to people being able to declare bankruptcy because you personally avoided it.

        2. ATS is right on this one, but for the most part his legal advice is either incomplete or wrong.

    2. Excellent question. First thought are the generations of people who paid back their loans in full despite their hardships; whether self-inflicted or government ‘sponsored’. They might have standing under ‘equal protection’ laws related to the 14th Amendment, in theory. Granted it hasn’t been suggested (yet) but I wouldn’t dismiss anyone’s claim outright for lack of standing, in this case. Seems relevant that student loan debt can’t be discharged via bankruptcy so why not question whether the government has the ‘right’ to discharge or reduce student debt by Executive Order?

      1. I too think that members of Congress may have standing to challenge; I hope someone tries.

          1. Omg. Whiskey foxtrot tango! Holy freaking boot strapping! It’s worse than we think….they used the hero’s act for this loan forgiveness (2003 – 911 it’s 2022) and since then recruited how many trrops? with free educaution ! Then they used cares to pass the Bait n switch obamacare….to federalize health care AND student loans..using veterans bill as the empty shell bill. they say the 20o3 gives them power in ’emergency’ to wipe out student loans…..tell that to two decades of folks who enlisted! ! This can not stand. He maybe honest under an emergency….he will not stop declaring….even though there is no more emergency….ppl don’t even have to quarantine any more. ..per the cdc. No he’$ milking the “emergency”. …you can’t for ever be promising debt relief (prepandemic). Then be fully it’s still an emergency .. but record low unemployment and say here’$ your debt relief. When most states don’t have an emergency Governors should sue = they have standing….they’ve e a legit interest that contracts be observered. And that contracts not be interfered with. …by letterhead living in the pasttryi g to boot strap ’emergency powers’ ” for a pre pandemic promise to leftists.

        1. The courts are loathe to insert themselves in Political skirmishes Pelosi and Schumer could squash the action. We will see if they will do anything but talk.

    3. Tell me if I’m wrong, doesn’t the House of Representatives control spending. $10,000.00 per student must be a massive amount of money.

    4. The question is how much money can he spend on the loans before being stopped by the courts or perhaps Congress.

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