Losing 25,000 Twitter followers in the blink of an eye, and receiving, by way of explanation, no more than a pithy message accusing one of propagating “false or misleading information” on Covid-19, certainly serves to focus the mind. To be on the receiving end of Big Tech censorship is to see its stunning arbitrariness up-close.
On 13th October 2021, I received a notification from Twitter that my account, @davidjthunder, had been suspended, on grounds of propagating “false or misleading information” on Covid-19, “which may lead to harm.”
I appealed the decision, and was told that due to “repeat violations” of their rules, the suspension would be permanent.
The four tweets that appear to have sparked the Twitter Censor’s wrath (I can only assume, since these tweets had been flagged over the previous months as problematic by Twitter), suggested that:
(i) the benefits of a vaccine may not justify its risks for a young and healthy adult, given the very low risks posed by Covid-19 to that demographic;
(ii) exposing children, who are at negligible risk from Covid-19, to the risk of a vaccine whose impact on children is not yet well understood, would be irresponsible;
(iii) many people have natural immunity already and therefore do not need to be vaccinated;
(iv) Covid vaccines are more dangerous than Ivermectin, which is being used to successfully treat Covid-19 in many parts of the world, yet is actively discouraged by many Western regulators.
All of these claims had been flagged by Twitter for being “misleading,” and presumably all contributed to their final decision to suspend my account. Given the patently selective and politicised manner in which Twitter has applied this rule - almost exclusively to arguments and claims that cut against its own favoured pandemic narrative - Twitter's claim to justify its practices of censorship in order to combat "misleading information" does not stand up to scrutiny, any more than Youtube’s or Facebook’s similar claims, as I explain here.
In any case, I would happily stand by all four of the tweets in my account that have been flagged as misleading or harmful by Twitter, as I believe they are broadly supported by the available scientific evidence and by reasonable assessements of risks and benefits. But what is at stake here is not whether my interpretation of the evidence is correct (I would be happy to revise my views if I see counter-arguments and evidence to disprove my claims), but whether the claims I make are so harmful or noxious to public order or public health as to justify triggering the permanent suspension of my Twitter account.
I defend the reasonableness and evidential basis for these claims here. But just by way of illustration, let’s consider the final flagged tweet that sparked the permanent account suspension.
That tweet asserted three things:
first, that Ivermectin was being used successfully to treat Covid patients in many parts of the world, including Mexico and India;
second, that many Western regulators were positively discouraging its use; and
third, that Ivermectin had a far better safety profile than the Covid vaccines, which were being actively promoted by public authorities for use by the general population.
The basic point of my tweet was to expose the hypocrisy of regulators who, in the face of a growing body of experimental and clinical evidence showing that Ivermectin, a very safe drug on the WHO’s list of “essential medicines,” could significantly mitigate Covid disease outcomes and potentially save many lives, continued to actively suppress its use by physicians, while simultaneously endorsing the near-universal use of an experimental vaccine (i.e., a vaccine still under trial) with a much worse safety profile (in terms of reported adverse events and deaths), on the logic of emergency use authorisation.
I believe these claims are sufficiently grounded in clinical and peer-reviewed evidence that they cannot reasonably be considered to constitute “misinformation,” even if some of the claims are controversial in the scientific and political community. Claim 2, concerning the efforts of regulators to discourage the use of Ivermectin, is indisputable, and cannot have been the grounds for suspension. Claims 1 and 3, touching on the efficacy of Ivermectin and its safety profile, are based on my interpretation of
the dramatic divergence between the adverse event data on Ivermectin and the Covid vaccines;
several peer-reviewed metastudies about Ivermectin trials (here is one; here is another; some data feeding into this second study was subsequently shown to be flawed - one of the co-authors, Dr Tess Lawrie, ran the numbers excluding that data, and still came up with results showing the conclusions drawn by the article were robust, as she explains here, where she also critiques other public evidence being brought against the efficacy of Ivermectin, such as the Cochrane study finding against the efficacy of Ivermectin).
quite convincing expert testimony by medical researchers and physicians, including Dr Tess Lawrie, director of The Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy Ltd, and those who form part of the Frontline Covid Critical Care Alliance, concerning the prophylactic and therapeutic value of Ivermectin against Covid-19 (including Dr Pierre Kory’s sworn testimony to the US Senate).
Some individual studies such as this one, conducted in Mexico city, which found a 50%+ reduction in hospitalisation rates among individuals who received an Ivermectin kit after being diagnosed with Covid-19 using a positive PCR test, compared with individuals who did not receive the kit, controlling for factors such as age and underlying conditions.
I lay out some of my sources in more detail in this Open Letter to Twitter. The reader need not agree with my interpretation of these sources to understand that the claims I make are not in any way toxic or harmful either to public order to to public health.
They are claims based on my interpretation of scientific data and clinical testimony concerning the efficacy of a particular drug, a drug that happens to be extremely safe when taken under medical supervision. These are claims made by several experienced and widely published medical analysts and physicians. It is altogether inappropriate to censor this sort of information, even if the censor takes a different position to mine.
Some qualified scientists and doctors remain unconvinced by the clinical and experimental evidence for the efficacy of Ivermectin. So there is an ongoing scientific dispute about whether, or to what degree, it is an effective treatment for Covid-19.
This happens all the time in regard to a host of issues upon which the science remains unsettled. The owners and managers of Twitter are entitled to form personal opinions about these disputes. But that does not give them the right to suppress perspectives and claims they do not agree with, particularly in regard to a drug that has an excellent safety profile and has been used by millions of people across the world for over 20 years.
I will probably never know for sure why Twitter cancelled my account, since they have never explained which of my assertions violated their rules, or in what respect. Indeed, it would appear that Twitter is not required to answer to anybody but itself for how it regulates its platform.
It can accuse you of propagating “misleading information,” and close your account, without at any time specifying exactly which, if any, of your claims was false or misleading, or in what respect. This has all the trappings of a mock trial: the charge is never precisely formulated or explained; the appeals process is completely behind closed doors; and the decisions are, in reality, completely subject to the unchecked whims of the regulator.
Twitter would undoubtedly reply that it is a private company, and thus has every right to make up its own rules, and enforce them in its own way. But this overlooks the fact that it now controls a large slice of our public sphere, and therefore fulfils a public function, irrespective of who its owners happen to be.
Twitter now services a large chunk of the infrastructure of public debate and discourse, one of the backbones of a vibrant democracy. What makes Twitter’s public function even more impressive is the fact that it, along with Youtube and Facebook, effectively exerts an unrivalled oligopoly over the digital public sphere.
While censorship arguably has some legitimate role to play in screening out violent and patently abusive content, or content that promotes self-destructive or other-destructive behaviour, Twitter has taken it upon itself to rally behind the views of certain experts and against the views of others, enforcing whatever it takes to be scientific and political orthodoxy on a variety of topics.
But the only way to justify such an extensive power of censorship is on the basis that the person exercising such power has some clear superiority over the persons being censored: the censor must be either wiser, morally superior, or more knowledgeable and enlightened than others.
Why should we expect censors to have a level of knowledge and virtue that permits them to stand majestically above the fray of public debates among citizens, philosophers, doctors and scientists, and decide who is right and who is wrong? What is it about getting nominated to a Twitter censorship committee, or to one of the expert bodies that Twitter relies upon, that suddenly qualifies someone to authoritatively settle complex scientific, moral and political disputes and determine which is the winning side?
Surely, this sort of hierarchical control of scientific and moral debate is the very antithesis of science? Surely, if we allow some persons to decide which views should be admitted and which should be excluded from the public square, this will inevitably lead to the arbitrary suppression of certain points of view that happen to fall out of favour with the censor?
A classic example is the theory that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a Wuhan lab. Facebook aggressively censored people who defended the lab leak hypothesis, just as they are currently censoring people who speak favourably about Ivermectin. Public discourse was artificially rigged against the lab leak theory, and many assumed that it was a crazy theory cooked up by “conspiracy theorists.”
Then prominent public health scientists like Dr Anthony Fauci, who happen to be experts who Facebook looks kindly upon, admitted that this hypothesis could not be ruled out. Suddenly it was acceptable to talk about the lab leak theory openly, and Facebook sheepishly reversed its rule prohibiting advocacy of the lab leak theory.
The decision to censor the lab leak hypothesis was clearly a political one that had little or nothing to do with science or established “facts.” If science had been respected, people would have been allowed to air their views on both sides of the question, and public debate would not have been pre-emptively shut down.
Facebook’s embarrassingly abrupt reversal of its censorship of lab leak theories should serve as an invaluable lesson to all of us about the dangers of Big Tech censorship. Today’s “misinformation” may be tomorrow’s un-disputed truths.