Health

Twitter permanently suspends US Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s account

Twitter suspended Greene’s account after she tweeted
Saturday, falsely, about “extremely high amounts of COVID vaccine deaths.” She
included a misleading chart that pulled information from a government database
of unverified raw data called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS,
a decades-old system that relies on self-reported cases from patients and
health care providers.

Twitter said that Greene had a fifth “strike,” which meant
that her account will not be restored. The company had issued her a fourth
strike in August after she falsely posted that the vaccines were “failing.”
Greene was given a third strike less than a month before that when she had
tweeted that COVID-19 was not dangerous and that vaccines should not be
mandated.

Greene’s official congressional account, @RepMTG, remains
active because tweets from that account did not violate the service’s rules.

“We’ve been clear that, per our strike system for this
policy, we will permanently suspend accounts for repeated violations of the
policy,” Katie Rosborough, a Twitter spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The company allows accounts to submit an appeal and will
potentially reverse the suspension if the violating post is proven to be
factual.

On alternative social messaging platform Telegram, Greene
said that Twitter “is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth.”

Her suspension comes as coronavirus cases have surged again
in the United States from the highly infectious omicron variant. New York state
recorded over 85,000 new coronavirus cases on the last day of 2021, the highest
one-day total in the state since the pandemic began, officials announced
Saturday.

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Twitter has long banned users from sharing misinformation
that could lead to harm. In rare cases, the company has permanently banned
high-profile accounts, including the account of former President Donald Trump,
over a risk of “further incitement of violence” after a mob of Trump loyalists
stormed the US Capitol on Jan 6.

There is currently no evidence of widespread major side
effects from the coronavirus vaccines. Last month, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention said Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could trigger a
rare blood clotting disorder now linked to dozens of cases and at least nine
deaths in the United States in the past year. The agency recommended using
other approved vaccines instead.

The VAERS database, which is managed by the Food and Drug
Administration and the CDC, has been cited in many coronavirus falsehoods to
push the idea that side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines have been underreported.

A spokeswoman for the FDA declined to comment but pointed to
an overview of the VAERS database on the FDA’s website that said VAERS reports
“generally cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an
adverse event or illness.”

In March, Twitter introduced a policy that explained the
penalties for sharing lies about the virus and vaccines. People who violate
that policy are subject to escalating punishments known as strikes and could
face a permanent ban if they repeatedly share misinformation about the virus.

Greene won the primary election for Georgia’s 14th
Congressional District in August, after rising to prominence by posting
unabashed support for Trump and for QAnon, a movement tied to the baseless
conspiracy theory that a group of global liberal elites run a child sex ring
that Trump would stop.

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Greene repeatedly posted the QAnon slogan on Facebook and
Twitter and had previously called “Q” — the anonymous online account that set
off the QAnon conspiracy movement — a “patriot” who was “worth listening to.”
Last year, Greene heavily promoted the false claim that the 2020 presidential
election was stolen from Trump, tweeting in January that there was “MASS voter
fraud on a scale that should terrify every American regardless of political
party.”

But it was Greene’s false proclamations about the
coronavirus, including opposing vaccines and masks as tools to curb the
pandemic, that finally got her suspended from Twitter. In July, Greene argued
that COVID-19 was not dangerous for people unless they were obese or over age
65, and said vaccines should not be required.

In August, Greene said on Twitter, “The FDA. should not
approve the COVID vaccines.” She said that there were too many reports of
infection and the spread of the coronavirus among vaccinated people, and that
the vaccines were “failing” and “do not reduce the spread of the virus &
neither do masks.”

The CDC’s current guidance states, “COVID-19 vaccines are
effective against severe disease and death.”

Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering
Digital Hate, which published research on the dozen most prominent social media
influencers spreading misinformation about vaccines, said it suited Greene to
portray her suspension as part of a pattern of moves by Twitter to censor
conservatives.

“In fact, it is for the banal reason that she’s a
superspreader of lies” that Greene was suspended, Ahmed said.

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He also criticised Twitter for not doing more to be
consistent in its suspensions of high-profile users who post misinformation.

“While the suspension of Representative Greene’s account for
propagating deadly disinformation appears to be a valid enforcement of stated
rules, it is the piecemeal enforcement that lends itself to being perceived as
political,” Ahmed said.

This article originally appeared
in The New York Times.

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