The United States (US) federal government helped to launch a project where six Big Tech companies and a coalition of research agencies partnered to mass monitor Covid-related content and flag millions of posts for censorship each day, according to new internal Twitter documents.
The documents were published by journalist Matt Taibbi as part of a new batch of “Twitter Files” — internal documents that have exposed many examples of Big Tech-federal government censorship collusion.
According to Taibbi, “The Virality Project,” a consortium of research partners that push for online censorship, worked with the government to launch a project that surveilled online Covid content and through which millions of items were flagged for review.
The documents show the Virality Project (VP), confirming that six Big Tech platforms, Facebook (including Instagram), Twitter, Google (including YouTube), TikTok, Medium, and Pinterest, were “acting on” content that was flagged to them by the Virality Project.
According to Taibbi, the Virality Project flagged a wide range of truthful content to Twitter and branded it as “potential violations or “disinformation ‘events.'”
Some of the many types of truthful content that were flagged include:
- The “‘vaccine passport' narrative” (which the Virality Project claimed had “driven a larger anti-vaccination narrative about the loss of rights and freedoms”)
- “True stories of people experiencing blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine”
- “The narrative around ‘natural immunity”
- Discussions of “breakthrough” infections (which the Virality Project claimed were “extremely rare events” that should not be inferred to mean “vaccines are ineffective”)
- Suggesting Covid-19 “leaked from a lab”
- Content that “increased distrust” in then-director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Dr. Anthony Fauci
- Stories about the “surveillance state”
- “Worrisome jokes”
Taibbi noted that Twitter employees soon started to echo some of the Virality Project's language. In a March 16, 2021 email, which was sent less than a month after Twitter joined the Virality Project, a Twitter employee described tracking “campaigns against vaccine passports,” “fear of mandatory immunizations,” and “misuse of official reporting tools.”
Not only did the Virality Project flag truthful content but, according to Taibbi, it would flag posts based on audience reaction and whether the responses to the post were deemed to be “disinformation.”
The Virality Project flagged a story about the death of an elderly black woman after receiving the Pfizer vaccine in Virginia because it “has received attention in anti-vax groups” and “the majority of top comments on the story are anti-vaccine.”
The Virality Project also claimed that people who were just “asking questions” were engaging in “a tactic commonly used by spreaders of misinformation to deflect culpability” and reportedly described a “Worldwide Rally for Freedom planned over Telegram” as a disinformation event.
Another technique the Virality Project used was to encourage Big Tech platforms to target people instead of posts using — something Taibbi described as “Minority Report-style ‘pre-crime' logic.”
The Virality Project was previously called the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) and under this previous name, it claimed to have successfully pushed for millions of tweets to be labeled in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election.