“True Stories … Could Fuel Hesitancy”: Stanford Project Worked to Censor Even True Stories on Social Media

While lost in the explosive news about Donald Trump’s expected arrest, journalist Matt Taibbi released new details on previously undisclosed censorship efforts on social media. The latest Twitter Files revealed a breathtaking effort from Stanford’s Virality Project to censor even true stories. After all, the project insisted “true stories … could fuel hesitancy” over taking the vaccine or other measures. The effort included suppressing stories that we now know are legitimate such as natural immunity defenses, the exaggerated value of masks, and questions over vaccine efficacy in preventing second illnesses. The work of the Virality Project to censor even true stories should result in the severance of any connection with Stanford University.

We have learned of an ever-expanding coalition of groups working with the government and social media to target and censor Americans, including government-funded organizations.

However, the new files are chilling in the details allegedly showing how the Virality Project labeled even true stories as “anti-vaccine” and, therefore, subject to censorship. These files would suggest that the Project eagerly worked to limit free speech and suppress alternative scientific viewpoints.

Taibbi describes the Virality Project as “a sweeping, cross-platform effort to monitor billions of social media posts by Stanford University, federal agencies, and a slew of (often state-funded) NGOs.”

He added: “We’ve since learned the Virality Project in 2021 worked with government to launch a pan-industry monitoring plan for Covid-related content. At least six major Internet platforms were ‘onboarded’ to the same JIRA ticketing system, daily sending millions of items for review.”

According to Taibbi, it targeted anyone who did not robotically fall in line with the CDC and media narratives, including targeting postings that shared “Reports of vaccinated individuals contracting Covid-19 anyway,” research on “natural immunity,” suggesting Covid-19 “leaked from a lab,” and even “worrisome jokes.”

That included evidence that it “knowingly targeted true material and legitimate political opinion, while often being factually wrong itself.”

The Virality Project warned Twitter that “true stories … could fuel hesitancy,” including stories on “celebrity deaths after vaccine” and the closure of a central New York school due to reports of post-vaccine illness.

The Project is part of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford and bills itself as “a joint initiative of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Stanford Law School, connects academia, the legal and tech industry and civil society with policymakers around the country to address the most pressing cyber policy concerns.”

The Center launched the Project as a “a global study aimed at understanding the disinformation dynamics specific to the COVID-19 crisis.”

As with many disinformation projects, it became a source of its own disinformation in the effort to suppress alternative views.

It is being funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Hewlett Foundation.

On its website, it proclaims: “At the Stanford Internet Observatory our mission is to study the misuse of the internet to cause harm, and to help create policy and technical mitigations to those harms.” It defines its mission to maintain the truth as it sees it:

“The global COVID-19 crisis has significantly shifted the landscape for mis- and disinformation as the pandemic has become the primary concern of almost every nation on the planet. This has perhaps never happened before; few topics have commanded and sustained attention at a global level simultaneously, or provided such a wealth of opportunities for governments, economically motivated actors, and domestic activists alike to spread malign narratives in service to their interests.”

What is even more disconcerting is that groups like the Virality Project worked against public health by suppressing such stories that are now considered legitimate from the efficacy of masks to the lab origin theory. It was declaring dissenting scientific views to be dangerous disinformation. Nothing could be more inimical to the academic mission. Yet, Stanford still heralds the work of the Project on its website.

There is nothing more inherently in conflict with academic values than censorship. Stanford’s association with this censorship effort is disgraceful and should be a matter for faculty action. This is a project that sought to censor true stories that undermined government or media narratives.

I am not hopeful that Stanford will sever its connection to the Project.  Censorship is now the rage on campuses and the Project is the perfect embodiment of this movement. Cloaking censorship efforts in self-righteous rhetoric, the Project sought to silence those who failed to adhere to a certain orthodoxy, including scientific and public health claims that were later found flawed or wrong. The Project itself is an example of what it called “media and social media capabilities – overt and covert – to spread particular narratives.”

Stanford should fulfill its pledge in creating the Virality Project in fighting disinformation by eliminating the Virality Project.

67 thoughts on ““True Stories … Could Fuel Hesitancy”: Stanford Project Worked to Censor Even True Stories on Social Media”

  1. Stanford, and others, seem to be working very hard to destroy their own value, much the same as “mainstream” media (NY Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN) have destroyed their own credibility for the majority of Americans.

  2. The question is now, when will Academia rid itself of progressive clowns and their buffoonery?

  3. Trump being felony indicted for alleged misdemeanors while Hunter peacocks around the country, bullying witnesses with lawsuits.

    This is a lame attempt by Democrats to elevate Trump to martyr status so they can run against him. As a political stunt, it’s bound to antagonize even moderates, but that’s not its biggest stupidity.

    If NY judges won’t protect liberals from criminals, how safe is Trump from a mob? Can we be sure Epstein died of suicide? This is an incredibly dangerous political stunt that threatens the cohesion of the Republic.

    Every red state should block any attempt to arrest Trump. Bragg is a reckless fool.

    Now the really weird question: if Trump travels in a blue state or county, will he be extradited, and if not, will he even be protected? Explain that while illegal immigrants congest our “sanctuary cities” with impunity and Hunter still roams without a single charge.

    If Trump isn’t arrested and extradited while he travels in blue counties, the bluff will look as feckless as our immigration law, so Bragg will be putting every Democrat magistrate on the spot. This is bound to get out of control and can easily lead to conflict.

    And telling a legitimate GOP candidate that for his own safety and freedom, he can’t go to blue areas has to be the beginning of something insane.

    Are there any adults left in the Democrat Party? They need to step up!!

    And I thought 2020 was bad. And 2021. And 2022. When will the madness stop, swing voters????

    1. And I wonder how Trump’s Secret Service detail will handle any given Democrat loon trying to arrest Trump. Weird beyond stupid.

      1. Diogenes – that’s an interesting question. How does a secret service detail deal with their protectee being arrested, and has that ever happened? A quick google search turned up the following web page:


        I don’t know how reliable the content of that page is, but it does speak to the question. Here is a sample paragraph from the above:

        With all that in mind, it would not so much be that the Secret Service would prevent arrest of an individual under their protection so much as the Secret Service would be the arresting authority. As they are law enforcement agents under the Federal Government, they can legally arrest people and then hand them to the proper law enforcement agency to effect the arrest. This would mostly happen with candidates for office OR former presidents OR family at any point in time as the scenario described is a bit harder to make a legitimate arrest.

        1. Thanks, Kansas. So now, Bragg has put the Secret Service on the hook, too.

          What a horrible situation 🙁

          1. Yes, and the question still remains how the USSS would deal with an arrest request from Bragg. So . . . is it automatic, under whatever the regs are, that they have to turn him over any time a local DA decides to arrest a former POTUS?

            1. How should the USSS respond to anyone threatening or attempting to take physical custody of their principal, given our system of justice is rooted in the principle of innocent until proven guilty?

              1. That’s the interesting issue here. The presumption of innocence does not by itself prevent arrest, otherwise nobody could be arrested until they were convicted after a trial. But does the USSS have to respect every local municipality’s request to arrest its charge? That’s the question.

                1. Thousands of people submit themselves to arrest and booking upon request of prosecutors. Physically arresting the President would just add to the evidence, Bragg is persecuting the individual, not enforcing the law.

        2. Read the article. I’m not sure the analysis is correct. The Secret Service is a federal law enforcement agency with no jurisdiction over state crimes, though any attack on a president or former president is a federal crime, and could also be a violation of state criminal codes, the federal crime would give them jurisdiction to arrest.

          The NY is alleging only state crimes, no federal crimes. Having said that, the Dems have destroyed what was normal in this country. I don’t think they will be agonizing over the issue of who has jurisdiction or who can do what under the law. Either Biden will remove secrete service protection or order them to make the arrest regardless of whether they have the power.

          Typically, a defendant’s attorney would contact the District Attorney/police agency involved and make arrangements to surrender the client. Part of that negotiation is discussing the issue of bail or release OR. I’ve done it numerous times when I practiced criminal law. But, since the Dems have blown up what used to be normal, I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen. They will forum shop to find the most liberal, progressive judge they can and push the case to that judge. Don’t be surprised if the judge denies bail (in a state that has done away with bail) just so they can get the photo op of a former president of the United States that they hate, being cuffed and taken into custody. If that happens we are officially a banana republic and the rule of law no longer exists.

      2. The answer to that is simple. Biden will remove the secret service protection. The FBI, which has no jurisdiction in a strictly state offense, will come in an arrest him.

        They’re no more ‘norms’ in the American Justice system. It has been taken over by the inmates of the insane asylum, i.e. Dems/libs/progressives.

        As much as I respect Professor Turley as a lawyer and law professor, the Democrat party of JFK and classical liberals no longer exist. To vote Democrat is to vote for totalitarian rule and the weaponization of the legal system. Uncle Joe Stalin and Chairman Mao would be proud of them.

        1. Maj229, I don’t know what has happened to the Democrat Party. I have liberal friends and relatives, and–God help ’em–they drink the Kool-Aid. A few brave Democrats, like Professor Turley, resist the party line, but none that I know personally.

          I fear the Democrat Party has become an extinction-level event. Twenty years ago, I thought civil rights were unassailable. I believed the consensus was bedrock America. Now, I worry about a pointless civil war every single day.

          1. Diogenes, I feel the same way. I’ve been a lawyer for almost 45 years and I no longer recognize the legal field, nor what has happened to our law schools. Open discussion, the expression of divergent ideas, respect for speakers, the absolute support by all of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, particularly the freedom of speech was the foundation to a good legal education, but has now become the antithesis.

            When law students, law professors and law school deans state that “shouting down a speaker is itself free speech,” then we have officially entered the world of “1984.”

  4. Mandatory censorship is critical to the Woke (Communist) agenda. You can’t have Communism with out censorship. It’s required. Lenin is smiling in his grave at Stanford University’s Virality Project. Thank you, Jonathan, for an excellent article.

  5. “[T]he project insisted ‘true stories … could fuel hesitancy’ over taking the vaccine or other measures.”

    So start with a propaganda desire: To push vaccines. Then as a means to satisfy that desire — ignore the truth, censor the opposition, deny reality. That’s not how thinking is supposed to work.

    “The Stanford Internet Observatory”

    At least they have the decency to use an Orwellian title.

    1. I also just read the unherd.com piece — it’s the best cogent summary I’ve seen of what the Biden Administration is doing to push their narrative.

    2. That is an article to bookmark and share. Thank you.

      This part of his summary is so true:

      Now America, just like Afghanistan and Iraq, must face the challenge of how to govern a country in which trust has been comprehensively shattered, and all that is left is a landscape of endless information operations run by warring tribes who define their opponents as “insurrectionists” and “terrorists”.

    3. Excellent read, Anonymous. This confirms my suspicion that the District of Corruption’s law enforcement and national security leadership should be relocated to where they might actually be convicted for malfeasance. D.C.’s hardcore, leftwing political climate–along with its politicized judges and juries–makes honest governance impossible.

      D.C. looks more and more like a hostile occupation. What next???

      My thanks to the other commenters for recommending this link. Time is precious.

      As for you, Mr. Obama, thanks for nothing.

  6. I agree with Kevin Beck. Its time to start holding the gate keepers accountable. Plenty of harm resulted from their one size fits all mantra during Covid.

  7. The Biden group tried to appoint a woman who, reading her own words, is a leftist of the first order, Scary Poppins, to be in charge of deciding what is labeled “disinformation” or “misinformation”. This administration is the most fascist we have seen in my long lifetime. The Biden team is incompetent at everything EXCEPT politics. They know how to use an EO to promulgate student loan forgiveness, even though unconstitutional, but can’t manage to secure the border. They manage to elect a dementia patient yet they can’t withdraw from Afghanistan properly. The win the Senate again but say there is no inflation, or it is transitory.

    Watch now as Svelaz comments 200 times trying to claim that there is no censorship attempt, that the censorship is good or that both sides try to censor. Svelaz is a DEMOCRAT OPERATIVE!

    1. I figure after Strzok was fired by the FBI and spurned by Lisa Page, George Soros kindly offered to support his family if he would post propaganda 24-7 from his basement in his underwear. “We will stop him!”

  8. There needs to be a thorough investigation of the Government connections to this. To what extent did VP benefit from Government funding, and to what extent were Government officials involved? Appalling as this is, without Government involvement it is hard to see unlawful conduct.

    1. “. . . without Government involvement . . .”

      “We’ve since learned the Virality Project in 2021 *worked with government* to launch a pan-industry monitoring plan . . .” (Emphasis added)

      That, of course, makes VP’s actions a violation of 1A.

      1. Yes, but the details of that need to be investigated and exposed. What funding, which officials and what was done. Specifically.

  9. Remember Vietnam, which I’m sure many of the younger readers don’t. A classic sentence from that era was “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”. It seems contradictory but the Vietcong would infiltrate villages and kill the leaders, teachers and anyone of competence and then they had a village in a death grip. In order to remove that death grip, the American forces had to basically destroy the village in order to eliminate the Vietcong. That, of course, meant substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties which also helped the Vietcong because the face of the destruction was American. The Vietcong were destroyed as a fighting force (and superceded by the North Vietnamese Army) with the Tet offensive (1968) when they came out and openly faced American firepower. The almost totally were eliminated from the contest.
    The question here, now, is how much are we willing to destroy in order to eliminate our American Vietcong, the Democratic Party which has forged these ties between certain universities, tech industry, Big Banks (protected by their brothers), large parts of industry, DEI, and such. Because now one has to also ask (I don’t because I never fully believed them) how much of the climate alarm is real or a fabrication. Remember the original UN report was on the climate crisis bore virtually no resemblance to what the scientist making the report had written. (I read their report) It was politically changed to worst case scenario across the board when the best case and moderate case scenarios were never discussed or reported. The Democratic Party has already decided to destroy the country in order to save it so what will your answer be? Makes you wonder about virtually everything that comes out of Washington now. I think it also explains the almost messianic need to destroy Mr. Trump. He could bring it all down. Mr. Trump’s personality and bombastic style though makes progress against these organizations difficult. There are, of course, certain Republicans that are in on this also.
    Just some notes from a Skeptic. Matt Taubbi is a pretty good “so called journalist” according to some recently quoted democratic congresspersons.

    1. GEB,
      A good and thought provoking comment.
      One only has to read about what has been going on at universities, recently the tragedy at Stanford Law school (the death of Free Speech), to know American VietCong are in those villages.
      As you aptly point out, the Democrats seemingly are willing to burn it all down to maintain power or gain more power, and advance their agenda.
      John Say and I have discussed the possibility of civil war. I recently commented how I would not put it past the Biden admin to do something really extreme to maintain power.
      Watching some of the videos from the Stanford protest, images of Germany 1930s or Mao’s Cultural Revolution come to mind.
      What will our answer be, indeed.

      1. Democrats seemingly are willing to burn it all down to maintain power . . .

        Upstate – I believe that burning it all down is their intent. Then they can rebuild it all in their image – which they believe will be utopia but will in fact be dystopia. Other than for them, because they’ll be in charge. The Leftist, by nature, would rathe rule in a dystopia than be an average citizen in a prosperous and just society.

      2. This is a bit over the top.
        The thesis presented requires circumstances like Mao’s china during the cultural revolution, or Russia under Staling or Hilter’s rise to power in Germany.

        The scenario presented argues for a deliberate planned attempt to seize power in a coordinated way.

        There is absolutely zero doubt that the left, the elites seek power – and will do most anything to get it.

        There is no doubt that we have a very large informal conspiracy.

        But there is not a formal conspiracy nor an agreement – mostly on methods.

        At the same time the mass psychosis argument is far less absurd than it sounds.

        70% of “liberal” women under 30 are suffering from anxiety and depression – which are absolutely caused by cognitive distortion.
        Conversely only about 20% of conservative women are.
        “liberal” men are more than twice as likely to have anxiety and depression as conservative men.

        This is a big deal – increase anxiety and depression and you can gain power.
        And how do you increase anxiety and depression ?
        Persuade people the world is going to h311.

  10. Similar to libel laws, would it be a good idea if people acting as censors and (so-called) fact checkers could be held civilly or criminally liable for the censorship of true stories?

  11. I don’t know what to say anymore. This is not America and our left are no longer a political party. This is madness, and with wokeness becoming a chokehold – it’s only going to get worse. Peace loving people have GOT to lose the fear and start speaking up.

  12. “Even true stories.” Professor Turley tells us that “even true stories” have been censored, as if the censoring ever had anything to do with blocking misinformation. True stories have always been the targets of censorship. The purpose of censorship is to protect lies from the truth. The Hunter Biden laptop is a good example. Every effort was made to block stories about the laptop precisely because they knew the stories were true.

  13. Stories of vaccine harm were fueling vaccine hesitancy in the same way that stories that stoves are hot should fuel a reluctance to touch hot stoves. This is what is supposed to happen! Who benefits when an organization pushes people to do what is causing harm?

    1. On the other hand, Kamala fueled vaccine hesitancy by saying she wouldn’t take it just because Trump said so. She didn’t say that based on scientific evidence, only political advantage to herself. It was the first objection to the vaccines that I recall and it seemed ill-advised and regrettable.

  14. Look up the connection between the CI*A, N*SA and other government entities with Google (and other social media companies). They have guarded facilities on at least one (likely more) Google campuses.

    Distinguished medical scientists were hushed, ridiculed and sidelined during pandemic.”You have been cancelled.” Why? They dared to question the narrative. They invited and encouraged scientific debate.

    When you see an effort to close down or distort freedom of information and the attack dogs show up it is time to become extra suspicious.

    In the old days we called that one brainwashing. Buyer beware!

  15. Can we just call this what it is?


    The United States is spending $Billions of tax payer $’s on an extensive Propaganda operation.

    That includes things like the special counsels persecuting President Trump using fake investigation.

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