The controversy over whether face masks help reduce the spread of coronavirus continues as Twitter recently removed a tweet from Dr. Scott W. Atlas (a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force) that apparently claimed face masks don’t help. According to a report at Slate:
Twitter decided to outright delete a tweet from one of President Donald Trump’s top coronavirus advisers, Scott Atlas, that alleged widespread use of masks was not effective to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Sunday, Twitter had removed the tweet and replaced it with a note that reads “This Tweet is no longer available.” A spokesman for Twitter confirmed that the tweet “was in violation of our COVID-19 Misleading Information Policy” that “prohibits sharing false or misleading content related to COVID-19 which could lead to harm.”
Atlas later tweeted a follow-up:
An article from the website Axios notes perceived problems with Dr. Atlas’s remarks and participation in the Task Force:
Why it matters: Atlas — who is a radiologist, not an epidemiologist — has become one of the president’s favorite coronavirus advisers, despite his controversial views.
- Atlas has falsely claimed that “herd immunity” can be achieved with 20%–25% of the population infected, and he suggested that calls for widespread testing and tracing are “grossly misguided.”
- Atlas has frequently clashed with other members of the White House coronavirus task force. Last month, an NBC News reporter overheard CDC Director Robert Redfield saying on a phone call: “Everything he says is false.”
Twitter is making a bad move here because deleting Atlas’s post will only fuel the conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus. Whether or not you agree with the face mask mandate or the science driving it isn’t the point here. The point is that some people who oppose the face mask mandate and/or question the effectiveness of face masks in reducing the spread will see it as evidence they are right.
I will skip the argument that it also denies people the chance to debate the issue because let’s face it, there’s not much you can say in 280 characters. In any event, Twitter’s efforts at limiting the spread of what it calls false or misleading information is censorship, no matter how you feel about the content. It is also an arbitrary decision when it comes to what is false and misleading when you consider the volume of what can be perceived as mistruths and lies on Twitter.