The recent revelations spotlighting the true scope of social media censorship at the direction of the U.S. government has been staggering. The latest in a frenzy of discovery emails from litigation, Twitter Files timelines and personal testimonies have exposed a technocracy attempting to reach runaway speed.

Newly sworn in Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey just posted a slew of internal emails showing that the Covid-era censorship was literally coming from the ‘highest levels’ of the White House. 

Quarterbacking the effort for the Biden Administration was Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Digital Strategy at the White House Rob Flaherty whose email exchanges with Twitter, Facebook and Google execs show snobbishly authoritarian leanings. Attempting to curb vaccine hesitancy, Flaherty employed a digital scorched earth strategy towards any info casting the Covid shot in a bad light – even if well-deserved. 

There was little room for nuanced debate to the White House’s hammer, wielded in this instance by Flaherty. Any narrative outside the narrow and simple-minded talking points from officials was pounded down with whatever blunt object they could get their hands on.  

“Really couldn’t care less about products unless they’re having measurable impact” on suppressing speech wrote Flaherty to a Facebook exec in April of 2021 – days before the White House publicly announced that the first, of many, Covid booster would be needed.   

Despite Baylor’s Peter Hotez making the baseless claim in August of 2019 during his interview with Joe Rogan that ‘the anti-vax lobby owns the internet,’ AG Bailey’s new internal emails tell a different story. 

Speaking on YouTube’s health and presumably vaccine content, a Google [YouTube’s parent company] exec wrote to Flaherty to remind him of what the world’s largest video streaming platform was doing: 

Keep in mind that borderline content accounts for a fraction of 1% of what is watched on YouTube in the United States…In January 2019, we announced changes to our recommendations system to limit the spread of this type of content which resulted in a 70% drop in watchtime on non-subscribed recommended content in the U.S. and our goal is to have views of non-subscribed, recommended borderline content below 0.5%.

In April 2021, for reporting off-narrative on the Covid vaccine topic, Flaherty demanded ‘Reduction’ of FOX News hosts Tucker Carlson and Tomi Lahren’s reach to a Facebook exec. 

The rabid health censorship contagion spread far beyond the whims of one White House capo’s authoritarian leanings.  

After looking thought selective Twitter Files, journalist Matt Taibbi came to the conclusion that “The government was in the censorship business in a huge way” encompassing “every conceivable wing” of federal enforcement agencies he told Tucker Carlson.

Journalist David Zweig said of Covid’s Twitter files that AI, machine learning and foreign contractors (farmed out to workers in the Philippines) we’re the methods of choice to automate much of its Covid-era censorship.  

Even high-ranking employees of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were in on the censorship free-for-all of the American people. After sending a spreadsheet of accounts and posts to Twitter for review wasn’t handled fast enough, Twitter gave backdoor, expedited access to the CDC’s Digital Media Branch Chief Carol Crawford by way of her personal email according to documents released from litigation by the American First Legal.  

This was the same CDC who, just one year early, appeared to gleefully celebrate the deplatforming of Del Bigtree and The HighWire in circulated emails obtained by legal demands from the Informed Consent Action Network. Far from isolated gossip or excitement from low level government employees, the emails looped in then CDC director Nancy Messonnier, Associate Director for Vaccine Policy at the CDC Dr. Melinda Wharton and former Chief Medical Officer for the CDC’s Vaccine Task Force Captain Amanda Cohn. 

The all-encompassing speech muzzle the U.S. government had on Big Tech platforms is now exposed and being widely debated. It remains to be seen what pro-speech influence Musk’s Twitter takeover and file dumps will have on other platforms’ behavior.  

On the legal side, February 21, 2023 will see the Supreme Court hear arguments in Gonzales v. Google, a case which asks whether Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act will still shield  Google from being sued when it manipulates content on its platform. A decision that will have far-reaching implications to all social media platforms if the section 230 protections are removed.    

A window into the future happened during Covid in the area of both artificial intelligence and military psychological operations.

In 2020, the UK, openly admitted that its secretive British Army unit’s 77th Brigade and Specialist Group Military Intelligence, once used against foreign enemy combatants, was now targeting its own public domestically in an aggressive more to shape public thought and neutralize independent voices during Covid.

Separately, members of a top scientific, psychological behavior group which shaped the UK governments Covid response blew the whistle in the summer of 2021 after fears they scared people too much alongside concerns the government was becoming ‘totalitarian.’

While governments were busy bragging that their respective military units were activated to ‘combat vaccine misinformation,’ beyond a eye-catching headlines, many readers were left wondering what that meant in action. 

An article by the San Francisco Standard unpacks what may have been part of that shadowy government aspect. Far from the vaccine hesitancy and misinformation of Russian bots we have been taught to hate, several ‘doctors’ on Twitter have been exposed as fake, cutout accounts. Whose behind them? No one knows. But they sure liked to push pro-government Covid propaganda. 

“…their bios and personas signpost identities meant to appeal to a certain type of Twitter denizen: liberal, pro-diversity and concerned about Covid. Or meant to provoke the opposite of that type of person” writes the SF Standard. 

All four accounts urged caution about Covid. They also amplified the voices of other Twitter users calling on the public to mask, vaccinate and socially distance. At times, they criticized policies that they felt undermined pandemic safety and individuals who they believed did not take Covid seriously enough.

“Come on china! Stop protesting, I wish we had similar lockdown measures here,” [fake doctor] Robert Honeyman wrote in a Nov. 27 tweet.

Meanwhile, the legislative branch has also activated to pick up any ground lost to a renewed freedom of speech moment in America. California’s new Covid misinformation law is now in effect threatening disciplinary action against medical professionals who speak out of the narrow lanes of government health talking points.  

Along the same flavor, the Ontario College of Psychologists sent notice to Jordan Peterson recently stating that due to his comments on Twitter during Covid challenging lockdowns, masking and other points, he would have to submit himself to re-education classes or lose his license.

In the court of public opinion, Peterson’s popularity as an honest, straightforward intellectual with a keen eye warning both societies and individuals to not repeat history’s dark chapters sides heavily in his favor. For the actual court, Peterson has asked the Ontario court to review the actions leveled against him.

There are many moving parts happening now that will shape the near future of open debate, the social media space and the public health conversation not only in America but society as a whole. Check-in regularly with The HighWire as we chronicle each step as it happens.

Jefferey Jaxen

Jefferey Jaxen is a health journalist and featured in his weekly segment, ’The Jaxen Report’, on The HighWire. As an investigative journalist, researcher, and compelling writer, Jefferey serves as Lead editor of The HighWire News and Opinion Team.