A Stanford professor who claimed he was blacklisted by Twitter during the pandemic for opposing the COVID-19 lockdowns because some thought his ideas were too dangerous, has met with Twitter CEO Elon Musk to discover what led to his ban.
Epidemiologist Dr. Jay Bhattacharya was placed on a blacklist held by the social media platform after he argued Covid lockdowns would harm children.
Bhattacharya is a tenured professor at Stanford, who previously co-authored a letter in 2020, the Great Barrington Declaration, which stated how the lockdowns were damaging.
The Stanford professor joined Twitter in 2021, a year after he wrote the controversial letter together with Indian-born British infectious disease epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta and former professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Martin Kulldorff.
Epidemiologist Dr. Jay Bhattacharya was placed on a blacklist held by Twitter after he argued Covid lockdowns would harm children
Bhattacharya met with Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Saturday to discover what led to his ban
The account of Stanford professor, Dr. Jay Battachyara’s (left) was muffled for sharing thoughtful criticism of COVID lockdowns. (Above) Drs Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University stands with Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University, the authors of The Great Barrington Declaration
The letter addressed the pandemic and its implications from a global public health and humanitarian perspective with a focus on how Covid-19 strategies were forcing children, the working class, and poor to carry the heaviest burden.
On Sunday, Bhattacharya revealed how he spent Saturday at Twitter’s San Francisco HQ after being invited to meet with Musk and uncover more about the blacklist he was added to.
‘Twitter 1.0 placed me on the blacklist on the first day I joined in August 2021,’ the professor tweeted. ‘I think it was my pinned tweet linking to the @gbdeclaration that triggered the blacklist based on unspecified complaints Twitter received.
At the time Bhattacharya explained how he Kulldorff had requested verification from Twitter 1.0, but was rejected because they were not notable enough.
On Sunday, Bhattacharya revealed how he spent Saturday at Twitter’s San Francisco HQ after being invited to meet with Musk and uncover more about the blacklist he was added to
After his meeting with Twitter CEO Elon Musk, Dr Jay Bhattacharya outlined what he had learned during his visit to the social media platforms headquarters
Musk later responded in kind tweeting: ‘Thank you for your rigorous adherence to science.’
‘Twitter 1.0 rejected requests for verification by me and @MartinKulldorff. Each time the reasoning (never conveyed to us) was that we were not notable enough. They should have asked Francis Collins — he would have vouched for our standing as ‘fringe epidemiologists,’ Bhattacharya continued.
‘It will take some time to find out more about what led Twitter 1.0 to act so imperiously, but I am grateful to @elonmusk, who has promised access to help find out. I will report the results on Twitter 2.0, where transparency and free speech rule,’ he tweeted.
Musk later responded in kind tweeting: ‘Thank you for your rigorous adherence to science.’
In October 2020, Bhattacharya together with professors from Harvard and Oxford Universities published The Great Barrington Declaration, which championed herd immunity — the notion that Covid would stop spreading after everyone had contracted it.
The White House supported the paper, and used it to try and push for schools and businesses to be allowed to open back up.
But Dr Anthony Fauci dismissed the concept of herd immunity as ‘total nonsense’ and ‘ridiculous’, adding that it would ‘lead to hospitalizations and deaths’.
However, when reflecting on the decision to close schools, Dr Fauci told ABC News last month: ‘We should realize, and have realized, that there will be deleterious collateral consequences when you do something like that.
‘That’s the reason why I continually would say on any media appearances I’ve had: “We’ve got to do everything we can to keep the schools open.” The most important thing is to protect the children.’
He has also repeatedly insisted that Covid did not leak from a lab in China.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya on the Ricochet podcast to discuss how Twitter attempted to block his controversial thoughts about the COVID-19 pandemic
Bhattacharya is a tenured professor at Stanford University, who previously co-authored a letter in 2020, which declared the lockdowns as damaging
Last week, Bhattacharya appeared on the Ricochet podcast with conservative host James Lileks to discuss his inability to be verified on Twitter.
‘It turns out James that I’m on a blacklist which I thought the United States kind of put behind us in like the 1950s but I guess that’s the modern way now,’ Bhattacharya said. ‘What happens with this kind of mechanism of social control is to tell the world that this idea is too dangerous to discuss. This person is too dangerous to think about.’
After appearing on various news channels to share his views on the pandemic and ramping up a following of about 290,000, it appeared as if the social media giant didn’t want to give him the blue checkmark.
‘I had some success, but I applied three times to become verified and they turned me down,’ Bhattacharya said.
Journalist Bari Weiss confirmed on Thursday that the professor was on Twitter’s blacklist, along with other public figures that questioned the severity of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
At the time, Specialist teams were put to work dealing with 200 cases a day.
Conservative commentators, including Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk, were also deliberately put on a ‘search blacklist’ in Bongino’s case or tabbed ‘do not amplify,’ in the case of Kirk
‘It’s basically a social credit system, right? It’s a system designed to… tell people look I’m bad [and] I have dangerous ideas, don’t listen to me,’ Bhattacharya continued. ‘I think that’s really the purpose of something like that like it’s not possible for the internet to squelch ideas if they happen.’
In a recent report, it was revealed that the professor was one of many who were shadow banned by the company
Weiss made the revelations on Twitter last week in the second tranche of what has been termed The Twitter Files.
She reported that Twitter used what was termed ‘visibility filtering’ to downplay accounts they objected to, and had teams of people working to reduce the traction gained by individuals or their tweets.
One senior Twitter insider called it ‘a very powerful tool.’
The teams working to minimize certain accounts or topics were backed up by a top-level ‘Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support’ team – where the CEO and top legal advisors would decide sensitive cases of censorship. Jack Dorsey and his successor as CEO, Parag Agrawal, were on the team.
Top officials such as Yoel Roth, the global head of trust and safety, wrote in internal messages that he wanted more creative ways of censoring and muffling specific accounts and content.
Elon Musk, who bought Twitter in October for $44 billion, was gleeful about the revelations regarding the company he now owns – retweeting Weiss’ thread, with a popcorn emoji.
As @bariweiss clearly describes, the rules were enforced against the right, but not against the left,’ he said, adding that the company was ‘working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal.’
He added: ‘Truth brings reconciliation.’
Within Twitter, the practice was termed ‘visibility filtering’, Weiss reported.
‘Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool,’ one senior Twitter employee told her.
Twitter would block searches of individual users, make a specific tweet less easy to find, block posts from the ‘trending’ page, and remove them from hashtag searches.
Another source, a Twitter engineer, told Weiss: ‘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.’
Weiss said that the matter was dealt with by Twitter’s Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, known as SRT-GET – a group that handled 200 cases a day.
Elon Musk, 51, has vowed that ‘everything we find will be released’ as Twitter. He took over the company that was founded by Jack Dorsey
CEO Parag Agrawal was fired by Musk as soon as he took control of the company. It now emerges they were involved in ‘shadow bans’ of accounts
A higher-level team, known as SIP-PES, ‘Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support,’ dealt with more complex and high-profile cases.
Dorsey and his replacement as CEO, Parag Agrawal, sat on the group, as did Gadde and Yoel Roth, the global head of trust and safety.
Roth messaged colleagues on Slack to say that ‘spam enforcements’ had been used as a way of circumventing the safety team ‘under-enforcing their policies’.
The group would need to intervene if any action was taken to limit the popular account @LibsofTiktok – whose account was tabbed internally: ‘Do Not Take Action on User Without Consulting With SIP-PES.’
Weiss said that the account was suspended six times in 2022, and the author, Chaya Raichik, was blocked from her account for at least a week each time.
Her account was suspended, they told Raichik, due to violations of Twitter’s ‘hateful conduct’ policy – but internally, Twitter admitted there was no violation.