Twitter Files: Tucker Carlson Op-ed About COVID Vaccines for Children Targeted as ‘Misinformation’

Chase Smith
By Chase Smith
April 28, 2023Vaccines
Twitter Files: Tucker Carlson Op-ed About COVID Vaccines for Children Targeted as ‘Misinformation’
Tucker Carlson speaks during 2022 FOX Nation Patriot Awards at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in Hollywood, Fla., on Nov. 17, 2022. (Jason Koerner/Getty Images)

Tucker Carlson returned to Twitter following the announcement he and Fox News had parted ways—his first comment made in a video had already garnered nearly 22 million views in two days.

Emails found in the “Twitter Files” show the same platform, under the previous leadership, worked to label information Carlson published in an opinion article, which was taken directly from the World Health Organization’s website—and subsequently edited out—as “COVID misinformation.”

They decided not to mark the Fox News URL as unsafe, given “political risks.” Instead, they labeled “any tweets linking the article” as possible COVID-19 misinformation.

‘Misleading Information Policy’

An email from Elizabeth Busby, a former Twitter communications staff member, to her “team” questioned whether the op-ed violated Twitter’s “COVID-19 misleading information policy” and qualified for “enforcement.”

The op-ed was published on June 23, 2021, and stated the WHO’s partnership with big tech companies “continued smoothly until just a few days ago. That’s when bureaucrats at the WHO published new vaccine guidance. Here’s what it says: children should not take the coronavirus vaccine. Why? The drugs are too dangerous,” Carlson wrote.

An internet archive of the WHO web page does show the WHO stated “Children should not be vaccinated for the moment” as of June 22, 2021. WHO officials added in their recommendations “There is not yet enough evidence on the use of vaccines against COVID-19 in children to make recommendations for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults.”

The internet archive of the same webpage for June 23 did not include that language. Instead, it said it was “less urgent” to vaccinate children unless they were part of a higher risk group and that they concluded “the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine” was suitable for age 12 and up.

Twitter’s Qualms

The remainder of the first email by Busby included a note that in the past the company had included misinformation labels and measures before a user clicked on a link if the content would “otherwise violate” Twitter policies if the “content were posted directly on Twitter.”

“Given Tucker’s visibility, we anticipate there may be some press interest regardless of the enforcement outcome,” Busby wrote, according to the Twitter Files email.

A response to that email said Twitter was going to “proceed with labeling any Tweets linking to the article we detect that advance the claim that WHO has deemed the vaccine dangerous for children.”

While the WHO website did not state specifically the vaccine was “dangerous” for children, it did clearly state the vaccine was “not recommended for children for the moment” due to a lack of evidence on the use of the COVID-19 vaccines in children.

NTD Photo
The Twitter logo is seen on the exterior of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, Calif., on Oct. 28, 2022. (Constanza Hevia/AFP via Getty Images)

An “internal only” line of the email stated a link to the article had not yet been posted to the Twitter accounts of Fox News or Carlson, nor had it gained significant traction. However, it added, “given that this article’s narrative is related to ‘big tech censorship,’ I want to be mindful that taking action on the URL level could lead to this particular article gaining more traction rather than mitigating the harm associated with it.”

That employee added Twitter would continue to “keep an eye on any ongoing discussions” relative to the article and that if it gained traction, Twitter would again review the link under their “URL guidelines.”

An email from another Twitter employee to Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of Trust and Safety, said the team should “definitely” escalate to Vijaya Gadde, former chief legal counsel for the company, regarding “any actions to mark a Fox News URL as unsafe given political risks.”

Roth replied stating there was “no intent to mark the URL as unsafe” and that he would “definitely ensure” he escalated a question like that if it arose.

More Censorship Options Discussed

Twitter’s Senior Policy Specialist for Misinformation, Joseph Guay, also chimed in on the discussion, sharing other options to escalate without directly censoring Fox News.

Guay wrote sharing the link itself wouldn’t trigger a misinformation annotation, but Twitter could decide to “remediate the URL” through an unsafe pop-up when a user clicked on a link.

This would have been applied every time someone shared the link, with users having to click through a prompt to accept being directed to the website to read the opinion article, without specifically labeling the link as disinformation or applying other punitive remediation.

For the tweets containing the link to be labeled as vaccine misinformation, the tweet itself would have had to include the supposed misinformation or “advance a similar sentiment as the misleading claims in the op-ed” while linking to the Fox News opinion article.

A Twitter meet-and-greet months later led to officials meeting with Carlson’s producer Alex Pfieffer. Twitter, in their notes of the encounter, stated it was apparent “from the get-go” they have “very different goals.”

The note also stated Pfieffer and the team saw importance in that Carlson “at least has [Twitter’s] side of the story” in front of him.

From The Epoch Times

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