White House pandemic adviser Scott Atlas has hit out at Twitter for censoring him over a post he wrote about masks and coronavirus.
Atlas, a controversial member of Trump’s Covid response team, put out a tweet on Sunday saying ‘Masks work? NO’ followed by examples of places with widespread mask-wearing rules where cases are currently rising.
Twitter deleted the message for ‘containing misinformation’ and Atlas said his account was also suspended for 12 hours.
The 65-year-old neuroradiologist accused the social media giant of ‘censoring facts’, comparing the move to the regimes in North Korea or Russia.
It comes after Twitter was accused of censorship for blocking users from sharing a story about Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his business dealings in Ukraine.
Scott Atlas, a controversial member of Trump’s pandemic response team, has accused Twitter of censoring facts after a post he wrote questioning the efficacy of masks was deleted
Atlas’s tweet also contained citations from the WHO, Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and Centers for Disease Control questioning the efficacy of masks.
‘The point isn’t the masks, as you well know,’ Atlas told Tucker Carlson on Fox News.
‘The point is we’re living in a world where an opinion, even if it’s based in fact… is snuffed out, as if there’s some kind of poison for even allowing it to be expressed.
‘When you cancel people out, when you cancel out facts, we’re really entering dangerous territory there, because the fundamental difference between the United States and the USSR, or North Korea… is freedom.
‘Once we don’t allow facts to be out there, the country’s finished.’
Twitter has stepped up its efforts to combat disinformation, misinformation, and other sensitive material on its site after the 2016 election.
The site recently began putting warnings on tweets and removing ones that breached its policies, including several by President Trump.
Atlas was hand-picked by Trump to join the pandemic response team for his lockdown-free approach, which has been criticized by other scientists
But critics have accused the site and found Jack Dorsey of using opaque criteria to judge what is and isn’t allowed, and applying it in an arbitrary way.
Initially, when Twitter blocked sharing the New York Post story on Biden, users were given no explanation of why the story could not be shared.
Later, the site clarified that the story breached its rules on sharing ‘hacked’ data.
Several prominent figures have raised doubts about how Rudi Guilani came to be in possession of the files – thought to have been scalped from a laptop under repair – but none have shown clear evidence of a hack.
Twitter eventually backtracked, allowing users to share the story but imposing a warning on such tweets about hacked information.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is now due to hold a vote on whether to haul Dorsey to Capitol Hill to explain the affair.
Facebook also banned users from sharing the story, but said the delay was to allow third-party moderators time to assess whether the story was true.
Atlas was hand-picked by Trump to join the US pandemic response team in August, amid growing frustration with Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, who repeatedly questioned Trump’s approach to coronavirus.
US coronavirus cases are starting to rise once more as a second wave of winter infections kicks in, which experts expect to be worse than the first
After an initial peak, US deaths from the virus have remained largely stable since late July, though many expect it to trend upwards over the winter
Atlas, who has no background in infectious diseases, is much more in-line with the president’s thinking, advocating an approach that would largely keep the economy open while trying to protect the most vulnerable.
The strategy is based on one pursued by Sweden, where the country stayed open during the first wave with people were told to wear masks and socially distance.
Such a strategy would continue until an effective Covid treatment or vaccine comes along, at which point normal life would resume.
Advocates of the policy say it will keep the economy from tanking while preserving basic freedoms that western countries enjoy.
While Sweden has not escaped the economic downturns of Covid, it has fared much better than other European nations that went into full lockdown.
However, detractors say it will lead to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of deaths – an unacceptable price to pay.
Sweden’s death and infection rates during the first wave were among the highest in the world. They have since fallen among the lowest, but are climbing again as the second wave hits.
Atlas’s presence in the White House is said to have riled other members of the response team, including coordinator Deborah Birx.
According to the Washington Post, Birx demanded that Atlas was removed from the team, saying she does not trust him and that he is giving Trump bad advice.
Atlas has denied the account, saying it is ‘filled with overt lies and distortions to undermine the President and the expert advice he is being given’.