Stanford Group Helped US Government Censor Covid Dissidents and Then Lied About It, New Documents Show
A trove of newly released Virality Project reports confirms that the government used a Stanford cut-out to censor true content about Covid vaccines, vindicating Twitter Files reporting
A Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) spokesperson says it “did not censor or ask social media platforms to remove any social media content regarding coronavirus vaccine side effects.” This denial came in response to Twitter Files published by Matt Taibbi in March, which revealed that SIO’s so-called “Virality Project” had pushed platforms to treat user concerns about vaccine mandates and passports as “disinformation” and to consider “stories of true vaccine side effects” to be actionable content on social media. The Virality Project was an initiative undertaken jointly by Big Tech, universities, and NGOs to combat “anti-vaccine misinformation.” SIO responded to Taibbi’s Twitter Files by claiming that his findings were “inaccurate and based on distortions of email exchanges in the Twitter Files.”
But new evidence shows that Stanford lied about the scope of the Virality Project and that its censorship efforts were undertaken on behalf of the US government.
As Public reported on Tuesday, new documents shared by the House Judiciary Committee revealed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), created the Virality Project’s predecessor, the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), to censor protected speech. Explains the committee, “EIP reconstituted as the Virality Project” and continued working with the federal government. The Twitter Files also found that the Project partnered “with several government agencies,” including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Office of the Surgeon General, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Still, Stanford and the mainstream media insist that “disinformation” experts were merely conducting research, and not involved in actual censorship.
Now, an investigation by Public has uncovered clear evidence that the Project was directly and deliberately involved in successful censorship efforts. Public analyzed a trove of newly released Jira system tickets, the Virality Project’s tipline to social media companies. These tickets overwhelmingly contradict Stanford’s assertion that it did not try to get content censored.
The Virality Project, acting as a cut-out for DHS and CISA, worked directly with employees at Facebook, Google, YouTube, TikTok, and more, who were all signed up to their Jira system. Those companies regularly assured the Project that they were addressing the content it flagged. Companies responded with comments like, “Thanks for flagging this. We have actioned the content,” or “Thanks for escalating to us — our team is looking into this now.” The Virality Project kept track of actions on the content it flagged, and was frequently successful in getting content labeled or removed by platforms, and in getting users suspended.
The Virality Project appears to have played a major role in one particularly infamous case of Covid-related censorship. On March 15, 2021, Harvard professor of medicine Martin Kulldorff tweeted, “Thinking 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 care-takers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children.”
“Dear Twitter Team,” a representative of the Virality Project wrote in response to Kulldorff’s post, “This Tweet directly contradicts CDC’s advice.”
“Thanks team — we’re looking into this,” a senior Twitter Trust & Safety policy specialist wrote back.
Kulldorff’s tweet was then labeled as misleading and he was temporarily suspended from the platform. Internally, the Virality Project identified Kulldorff, a renowned biostatistician, as a “repeat offender.”
This process was indeed a deliberate, state-sponsored act of censorship. In many egregious instances, the Virality Project — again, a government cut-out — intentionally and knowingly worked to silence and deplatform social media users. Jira records vindicate the Twitter Files and are evidence of First Amendment violations.
These are some of the Virality Project’s most egregious, absurd, and anti-science censorship efforts: