Twitter suspended the account of an anti-vaccination group on Thursday after it claimed to have obtained thousands of new emails written by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser.
The social media giant temporarily locked the Informed Consent Action Network’s account and said it was spreading “misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19,” according to a screenshot of the notice posted on Twitter by conservative journalist Michelle Malkin.
The suspension came after ICAN tweeted that it would be publishing 3,000 pages of Fauci’s emails obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. The messages would provide “further insight into Anthony Fauci‘s actions on COVID, vaccine safety and more,” ICAN wrote in the now-deleted post.
The claim follows the release on Tuesday of hundreds of pages of messages sent to and by Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. These emails, written in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, were published by BuzzFeed and The Washington Post.
Asked by Newsweek why he believes Twitter has suspended ICAN, Del Bigtree, the group’s founder and CEO, said: “One can only assume that Twitter is concerned that [Fauci’s] own emails will undermine the narrative that Twitter has been attempting to propagate about the COVID pandemic and COVID vaccine.”
Twitter’s decision was criticized by conservative public figures, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who wrote: “Why would @Twitter suspend them when they obtained the emails through a FOIA request? What is there to hide? Why is it political?”
Greene added—without providing any evidence for her claim: “Everyone suffered from the manmade virus that was leaked out of the Wuhan lab where Fauci funded gain of function research and it killed people.”
On ICAN’s website, the group states that it provides “scientifically researched health information” to the public so citizens can make their own decisions.
However, ICAN was described as a “key anti-vaxxer organization” in a recent report on vaccine disinformation by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
Bigtree, the group’s founder, wrote and produced a 2016 film, Vaxxed, that alleged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had covered up a purported link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The film was directed by the discredited former doctor Andrew Wakefield.
When asked by Newsweek about his group’s stance on vaccinations, Bigtree said: “In general, ICAN’s views on vaccines are that they should be treated like every other pharmaceutical product. That means they should be involved in rigorous double blind placebo studies that last multiple years prior to being promoted to the public.
“We also believe that, like every other pharmaceutical product, pharmaceutical companies should be held liable for death and injury caused by vaccines.” The delivery of vaccines should be based on “informed consent,” he added.
The Fauci emails released by BuzzFeed and the Post have caused controversy, with conservative commentator Candace Owens saying he should go to prison and GOP lawmakers calling for him to be fired from his role as President Joe Biden‘s chief medical adviser.
Fauci responded to the criticism on Wednesday, saying the email correspondence was “ripe to be taken out of context.”
Newsweek has contacted Twitter, Rep. Greene and Malkin for comment on ICAN.
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