The Twitter Files Part II: Censoring Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and More
It gets worse.
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On Thursday night, the second iteration of the Twitter Files was released, this time by former New York Times journalist Bari Weiss.
In my opinion, this installment was an even bigger bombshell than the first because it revealed the existence of “secret blacklists” maintained by Twitter employees, who’ve long been accused of suppressing content and accounts contradicting left-wing pieties and The Narrative™.
“What many people call ‘shadow banning,’ Twitter executives and employees call ‘Visibility Filtering’ or ‘VF.’ Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning,” Weiss explained. “'VF’ refers to Twitter’s control over user visibility. It used VF to block searches of individual users; to limit the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability; to block select users’ posts from ever appearing on the ‘trending’ page; and from inclusion in hashtag searches.”
“All without users’ knowledge,” she added.
“'We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do,’ one Twitter engineer told us,” Weiss wrote. “Two additional Twitter employees confirmed.”
Last night established that most of the suppression has indeed been politically motivated, and the new information offered an insider view of the mentality, strategies, and broad mechanisms these opportunistic ideologues have used to shape public opinion and policies. It also vindicated all those who’ve been dismissed as conspiracy theorists for speaking out about Twitter’s shadowy policies silencing conservative voices, and exposed many of the company’s top executives as brazen liars.
The use of these blacklists has allowed Twitter to severely restrict the visibility of certain accounts and trending topics without informing anyone. The second release of the Twitter Files thus confirms what many have long suspected but have been powerless to prove: Censorship in its most Orwellian form.
The extent of this censorship is a much bigger deal than it may seem, as it’s had far-reaching, real-world consequences. Arguably the most clear cut example of this was revealed right away by Weiss: Twitter suppressed the tweets of esteemed Stanford professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya during pandemic lockdowns.
Dr. Bhattacharya was an early critic of pandemic policies and spoke out against their negative impact on children, which has included severe learning loss, with low-income students losing an average of three semesters of reading and math skills. We have crippled kids, and it was all to pacify paranoid hypochondriacs.
The ideologues and Grievance Studies major moonlighting as Twitter employees led the charge in shutting down debate, inquiry, and skepticism — a triumvirate integral to real science — and instead enforced a culture of counterproductive moralism, in this case unilaterally deciding to override a dissenting expert in an area of core competence during the middle of a pandemic.
This was not some random guy spreading “misinformation,” this was a full professor from the Stanford School of Medicine with an MD and PhD and specific domain expertise in public health policy. Dr. Bhattacharya was also a chief architect of the Great Barrington Declaration, which predicted the disastrous consequences of scientifically bereft, socially disastrous lockdown policies and advocated for the focused protection of vulnerable populations as opposed to shutting down society and forcing everyone to isolate in their homes like agoraphobic recluses in cut rate motels.
Had debate about the blatantly unscientific policies enforced during the pandemic not been shut down and people like Dr. Bhattacharya been listened to, society would be infinitely better off today in virtually every way imaginable. Instead he was censored, his name was tarnished and vilified, his career was disrupted, and his reputation called into question. If Twitter was willing to shadow ban a sitting professor of medicine for having a cogent view that ran counter to the establishment narrative, think of how many other people were also subjected to the same censorship.1
An exercise in comparison is worthwhile here, given the ruling class’s preoccupation with credentialism. Dr. Bhattacharya has long been one of the foremost experts in his field. Indeed, Fauci viewed him as such a threat to his authority that he ordered “a quick and devastating published take down” of the Great Barrington Declaration at the very beginning of the pandemic, maligning Dr. Bhattacharya as a “fringe epidemiologist.”
Yoel Roth (@yoyoel), on the other hand, the former Global Head of Trust & Safety at Twitter whom we discussed in a previous Euphoric Recall post and who was one of the key figures behind the censoring of the Hunter Biden laptop story and the deplatforming of the former president, literally received a PhD from Penn for what amounts to an auto-ethnography of his own Grindr usage. The title of his dissertation is “Gay Data.” Much of the primary research he cites throughout was based on using his personal Grindr account daily from 2009-2013.
Roth’s dissertation is 298 pages long, mentions free speech once while citing zero work on the subject, and doesn’t discuss the importance or meaning of free expression in the digital age. It does, however, foresee and support the very ideologically-driven censorship he would go on to champion at Twitter, and makes it clear that he lacks anything remotely resembling a commitment to the core principles of free speech.
It is astonishing that Roth held the role he did. This was someone leading the decisions behind “content moderation,” censorship, and “disinformation”—decisions that included the blacklisting of Dr. Bhattacharya, severely limiting the reach of his tweets and preventing users from searching for his account. It is not an exaggeration to say that Roth and Vijaya Gadde were running the show at the company while Jack Dorsey was merely a figurehead who was rarely aware of his company’s systemic bias. Musk has made that clear.
Libs of TikTok
The Twitter Files part II also revealed that Twitter’s censors included a special tier of individuals “beyond the rank-and-file moderators following the company’s policy on paper” known as the “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support” (SIP-PES), which was made up of Twitter executives including former legal head Vijaya Gadde, Trust & Safety chief Yoel Roth, and former CEO Parag Agrawal.
“This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made,” Weiss explained, noting that Twitter employees she spoke to said that accounts impacted would be those with high follower counts.
One such high-profile account subject to this level of scrutiny was Libs of TikTok (LTT), which is run by Chaya Raichik and simply shares videos of liberals doing and saying insane things that they themselves have already posted to the internet. The account was put on the “Trends Blacklist” and designated as “Do Not Take Action on User WIthout Consulting With SIP-PES.”
“Twitter repeatedly informed Raichik that she had been suspended for violating Twitter’s policy against ‘hateful conduct,’” Weiss wrote, noting that Libs of TikTok didn’t actually violate the policy. “But in an internal SIP-PES memo from October 2022, after her seventh suspension, the committee acknowledged that ‘LTT has not directly engaged in behavior violative of the Hateful Conduct policy.’”
Apparently, the committee justified Raichik’s suspensions internally by arguing her posts encouraged online harassment of “hospitals and medical providers” because they implied “that gender-affirming healthcare is equivalent to child abuse or grooming.”
And yet, when Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz doxxed Raichik by tweeting out a photo of her home along with the address, Twitter employees claimed that this didn’t violate the platform’s guidelines (it does). The tweet was never taken down and has garnered more than 10,000 likes.
Weiss also documents how Roth used spam “technicalities” to justify restricting the visibility of high profile accounts like Libs of TikTok. Roth would later ask the company’s Health, Misinformation, Privacy, and Identity research team to come up with justifications to support expanding the site’s visibility filtering tools, which he referred to as “non-removal policy interventions,” including “de-amplification” and “disabling engagements,” AKA censorship.
The mainstream media has once again labelled the newest Twitter Files revelations a “nothing burger.” This is ridiculous. Twitter’s top executives lied. They lied to users and even to Congress, and we now know that the company acted on requests from political actors to suppress speech. As Benito Mussolini himself once said, we have a word for the merger of state and corporate power: Fascism.
Anyone who tries to claim these latest revelations aren’t newsworthy — that Twitter has been using secret “blacklists” and suppressing conservative voices — is simply avoiding the truth of the matter, which is that ideological bias in their favor and which works against their political opponents has been exposed, as has an alliance between Big Tech, public health, and the security state that advances left-wing interests. If this was the “nothing burger” they claim it is, it wouldn’t have been kept secret.
This is why they’ve spent the past few months freaking out about Elon Musk buying the company. The Blue Check praetorian guard, largely comprised of liberal journalists, knows that the playing field has radically changed, and transparency hath cometh.