Latest Twitter files tackle ‘Covid-19 Big Lie’ by labeling true content as ‘misinformation’

The latest installment of the Twitter Archives looked at Stanford University’s Virality Program which was meant to fight “misinformation” but actually targeted COVID content that defied establishment narratives.

According to its website, the goal of the Virality Project, which launched in May 2020, was to “detect, analyze and respond to incidents of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in online ecosystems and ultimately mitigate the impact of the narratives that would otherwise undermine public confidence in the safety of these procedures in the United States.”

On Friday, freelance journalist Matt Taibbi pointed out that the project doesn’t quite live up to its mission statement.

Taibbi began the Twitter Archives by attacking what he called “The Great Covid-19 Lie Machine” by citing his weekly updates, one from June 2021 saying that the Spring 2020 emails were released by Dr. Anthony Fauci on the profit of the operation research conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology “was used to exacerbate distrust in Dr. Fauci and the US public health institutions” and “will incite increased distrust in the guidance of Fauci’s experts.”


Stanford University’s Virality Program was the subject of the latest installment of the Twitter Archives (Screenshot/Virality Project)

Another update appeared to dismiss the lab leak theory and sounded the alarm about “disturbing jokes” critics had made about the Biden administration’s proposed door-to-door outreach efforts to boost vaccinations and any discussion of physical immunity.

“All were labeled ‘potential breaches’ or ‘disinformation events’ by the Virality Project, a sweeping effort to track the billions [sic] social media posts from Stanford University, federal agencies and a number of (often state-funded) NGOs,” Taibbi said.

As Taibbi noted, emails from the Virality Project were previously reported in the Twitter Archives, which panicked that “true content” about various side effects from COVID vaccines “may promote vaccine hesitancy.” But Taibbi now reports that in 2021, the project “worked with the government to launch an industry-wide monitoring plan for Covid-related content” on Twitter, Google and YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Medium, TikTok and Pinterest.

“This story is important for two reasons. One, as an Orwellian proof of concept, the Virality Project was a huge success. Government, academia, and an oligopoly of would-be corporate competitors quickly organized behind a secret, unified effort to control political messages Taibbi wrote. “Second, it has accelerated the evolution of digital censorship, moving it away from the truth/falsehood crisis to a new, scarier model, openly focused on political narrative at the expense of facts.”


Taibbi reported that Stanford University introduced Twitter to the Virality Project in February 2021, days after President Biden’s inauguration, first addressing “vaccine-related misinformation.”

He cited an email from the Virality Project about combating the “vaccine passport narrative” and how concerns from critics at the time “led to a broader anti-vaccine narrative about the loss of rights and freedoms,” all of which fall under the category of the project’s “misinformation.”

“The Vice President routinely framed actual side-effect testimony as misinformation, from ‘true stories’ of blood clots from AstraZeneca vaccines to a New York Times story about vaccine recipients suffering from the blood disorder thrombocytopenia,” Taibbi wrote.

Journalist Matt Taibbi criticized the Virality Project as

Journalist Matt Taibbi criticized the Virality Project as “The Great Covid-19 Lie Machine”. (Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)

Twitter quickly synced up with the Virality Project. An email from Twitter in March 2021 indicated that it “will continue to monitor … misuse of official reporting tools and statistical data” and “campaigns against vaccine passports, fueling fears of mandatory vaccinations”.

The Virality Project objected to Sen. Ron Johnson’s, R-Wisc., stance to “raise questions” about the safety of COVID vaccines, claiming it is a “tactic commonly used by misinformation spreaders” as well as the protest by Worldwide Rally for Freedom opposed the restrictions on COVID, calling it a “disinformation event”.

It also singled out “known repeat offenders” such as longtime vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr., suggesting his content is “almost always referential.”

In a June 2021 report, the Virality Project said it wanted to “sharpen” the “increasingly popular narrative about natural immunity.” Two months earlier, the project argued that breakthrough COVID infections in those vaccinated are “extremely rare events,” which it said does not mean “vaccines are ineffective.”

Months later, the project acknowledged that “innovative cases are occurring.”


Twitter archives suggest the Virality Project may have encouraged Biden’s DHS to establish the now-defunct Disinformation Governance Council.

On April 26, 2022, the project released a report calling for a “Misinformation and Disinformation Center of Excellence” to be established at DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to “create a rumor control mechanism to counter national trending narratives.” The next day, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas revealed that a privacy panel had been created and would be chaired by now-infamous Mary Poppins actress Nina Jankowicz.

The Virality Project appeared to have encouraged Biden's DHS to establish the now-defunct Disinformation Governance Council, headed by Nina Jankowicz.

The Virality Project appeared to have encouraged Biden’s DHS to establish the now-defunct Disinformation Governance Council, headed by Nina Jankowicz. (@wiczipedia Twitter account)

“Even in his final report, the vice president claimed it was misinformation to suggest that the vaccine does not prevent transmission or that governments plan to introduce vaccine passports. Both of these things turned out to be true,” Taibbi wrote. “The Virality Project was not specifically based on ‘statements of fact’, but public submission to power, acceptance of the narrative, and statements from figures like Anthony Fauci. The central idea of ​​the project was ‘You can’t handle the truth.'”


Among the government agencies the Virality Project allegedly worked with include the Office of the Surgeon General, the CDC, DHS’s CISA, and the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which was also previously scanned for Twitter archives.

“To recap: America’s information mission went from counterterrorism abroad, to thwarting ‘foreign interference’ from reaching domestic audiences, to 80% domestic content, largely,” Taibbi added.

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