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CDC used private Twitter portal to censor COVID-19 content, new documents reveal

Docs also reveal CDC's cozy relationship with Google

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Yudi Sherman

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Yudi Sherman

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Shining a spotlight on media and government disinformation.

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December 08, 2022

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02:02 AM

CDC used private Twitter portal to censor COVID-19 content, new documents reveal

A new tranche of documents released by America First Legal Tuesday reveals the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had a private portal set up with Twitter to expeditiously censor certain COVID-19 content. 

In a May 2021 email to CDC Digital Media Affairs Chief Carol Crawford, a Twitter employee named Todd O’Boyle appears to thank her for sending him content to censor. 

“Thanks for sharing this – agree these are important trends to note; a quick scan shows that at least some of these have been previously reviewed and actioned,” assured O’Boyle. “I will now ask the team to review the others.” 

O’Boyle then invited Crawford to join the tech company’s “partner support portal” to more easily submit content to be banned. 

“Carol, remind me: did you have a chance to enroll in our Partner Support Portal? In the future, that’s the best way to get a spreadsheet like this reviewed.” 

By the next day, O’Boyle had the CDC up and running with their new portal account, which O’Boyle told Crawford “allows you a special, expedited reporting flow in the Twitter Help Center.” 

The documents also reveal a cozy relationship between the CDC and Google. 

In August 2021 Google’s News Lab head for the Asia Pacific region (APAC), Irene Jay Liu, invited CDC Vaccine Confidence Strategist Elisabeth Wilhelm to a Trusted Media Summit, a censorship conference between heads of media, tech and government. 

Google describes the Trusted Media Summit as an event “bringing together journalists, fact-checkers, educators, researchers, activists, and policymakers who are fighting misinformation across the Asia-Pacific region. This annual conference seeks to provide this vibrant and growing counter-misinfo community an opportunity to network and share best practices in the areas of fact-checking, verification, media literacy, and research.” 

“We are back preparing for the APAC Trusted Media Summit and I wanted to check in and see if there were any updates to the program you were recruiting for last year?” wrote Liu in an email. “Or something related to lessons learned? 

“We’d love to have you back to speak on the program and learnings, or if you have suggestions about who you think would be a great speaker (or panel), we’d love your advice!” 

Wilhelm could barely contain her excitement. 

“Yes please! Thanks everyone! I feel like I got entry into the coolest misinformation fighting speakeasy,” she gushed, adding a smiley face. 

 

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