Vijaya Gadde and Yoel Roth, the former Twitter executives who oversaw the social media site’s censorship activities, reek of elitism and ivy. Gadde’s bio says she attended Cornell University where she earned an undergraduate degree in industrial and labor relations and then attended New York University from where she received a law degree. Gadde worked for the prestigious Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini for about a decade, toiled in the legal department of a tech company, joined Twitter 2011 and became the company’s top lawyer two years later.
Gadde last year received $17 million in compensation, despite Twitter being a perennially money losing operation.
Roth received an undergraduate degree in political science from Swarthmore College and a doctorate in communication from University of Pennsylvania. In 2014, Roth worked as a researcher at Harvard University’s Center for Internet and Society, which advocates left-of-center legal reforms to govern the internet. He joined Twitter in 2015 as a junior member of its “trust and safety” team and quickly rose through the ranks to become head of the unit.
Hard as I tried, I could find nothing in Gadde’s or Roth’s backgrounds that even remotely would qualify them as medical or public health experts. Yet it’s been revealed that Gadde and Roth were responsible for effectively censoring Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford professor who’s uniquely qualified to comment on the aforementioned subjects.
Bari Weiss, one of two independent journalists given free rein by Elon Musk to examine and make public Twitter’s censorship activities under the previous management, revealed Thursday evening that Twitter secretly placed Bhattacharya on a ‘Trends Blacklist,’ which prevented his tweets from trending and reaching a broader audience. Bhattacharya was among the founding members of the Great Barrington Declaration, an organization of global infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists who publicly expressed “grave concerns” about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the Biden Administration’s lockdown policies.
The more than 900,000 signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration supported an alternative approach that would have focused on protecting those who were most vulnerable to Covid.
I can’t do justice to Bhattacharya’s impressive background and credentials so I’m going to just post his bio as it appears on Stanford’s website.
Jay Bhattacharya is a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and at the Stanford Freeman Spogli Institute. He holds courtesy appointments as Professor in Economics and in Health Research and Policy. He directs the Stanford Center on the Demography of Health and Aging. Dr. Bhattacharya’s research focuses on the economics of health care around the world with a particular emphasis on the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Dr. Bhattacharya’s peer-reviewed research has been published in economics, statistics, legal, medical, public health, and health policy journals. He holds an MD and PhD in economics from Stanford University.
Gadde and Roth both strike me as arrogant. Asked whether a 2019 Trump directive calling on federal agencies to begin rolling back protections granted to online platforms caused her any concern, Gadde told Politico, “There are a lot of things that keep me up at night, but that was not one of them.” Following the election of Donald Trump, Roth mocked the parts of the country that voted for the president as “fly over states.” He also tweeted dismissive comments about Trump and his administration, referring to some members as “Nazis.” Roth couldn’t be bothered to create the appearance of neutrality, which should have been required by someone in his position, particularly since nearly half the country voted for Trump.
Indications are the decision to curb the influence of Bhattacharya came at the direction of the Biden Administration and other government officials. As reported by The Intercept, meeting minutes and other records appended to a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt revealed there’s compelling evidence to suggest government officials worked closely with social media companies to suppress pandemic information not to their liking.
As well, emails obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by the American Institute for Economic Research revealed that former National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins sent a October 8, 2020 message to Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressing concern the Great Barrington Declaration was garnering considerable attention.
“There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises,” Dr. Collins wrote. “Is it underway?”
Fauci assured Collins the takedown was underway.
The mainstream media routinely published articles discrediting Bhattacharya and the other co-founders of the Great Barrington Declaration, Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, and Oxford’s Sunetra Gupta. The three academics have superb credentials and dismissing them as “fringe” was dishonest.
The documents posted by Weiss revealed that Gadde and Roth oversaw a censorship operation that did Orwell proud. Teams of Twitter employees developed blacklists, prevented disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limited the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users.
Weiss also revealed that Gadde was skating close to the line when she previously denied accusations that Twitter engaged in “shadow banning,” which is when tweets are secretly suppressed without informing the users who posted them.
“‘And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology,” Weiss quoted Gadde and a colleague as once saying.
Twitter engaged in what was internally known as “visibility filtering,” a practice that blocked searches of individual users; limited the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability; blocked select users’ posts from ever appearing on the ‘trending’ page; and from inclusion in hashtag searches.
“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,” an unidentified engineer told Weiss.
Gadde and Roth oversaw a team of 350 censors, but Weiss didn’t reveal the backgrounds of the information suppressers and whether any of them had degrees or experience in science and epidemiology making them qualified to evaluate the positions of scientists from three of the world’s leading universities.
Weiss, as has Matt Taibbi, another independent journalist Elon Musk gave unfettered access to research Gadde’s and Roth’s massive censorship operation, has taken quite a beating from corporate journalists and their supporters.
Georgetown political science professor Don Moynihan declared Weiss “an opinion writer/activist, not an investigative journalist. Her whole MO is to look for stories that might be generally unrepresentative, but reflect her worldview, and not do any additional digging that challenges that worldview. View the scoops that follow accordingly.”
“The most obvious and hilarious PR campaign masquerading as investigative journalism you will ever see,” Vice correspondent Roberto Aram Ferdman tweeted. And MSNBC columnist Marisa Kabas wrote, “sure sounds like bari weiss is twitter’s new publicist.”
Accusing Weiss and Taibbi of doing PR for Twitter and Musk appears to be a unified response from the content providers at Comcast’s broadcast properties.
Journalists are typically a petty bunch, particularly those on the lower rungs of the media food chain. The mainstream media is writing ad nauseam about Musk and Twitter, but they are all on the outside looking in. Weiss and Taibbi are getting a rare opportunity to look under a corporate kimono, and while their findings might please Musk and further his agenda, they also are shedding light on an alarming threat to the free flow of information.
If anyone is doing PR, it’s the mainstream and social media serving as the communications arm of the U.S. government.