Twitter has taken down a tweet regarding the use of masks from White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Scott Atlas that it said violated the company’s COVID-19 Misleading Information Policy, a Twitter spokesman told CNN on Sunday.
Atlas’ tweet on Saturday said, “Masks work? NO” followed by what Twitter said was misrepresentations about the effectiveness of masks in combating the pandemic, which the company said could lead to harming the public, especially as coronavirus cases increase in many places throughout the United States.
The message by Atlas goes against guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which since April has encouraged mask wearing in public and when people are near others who don’t live in their household.
In such cases, Twitter disables the account until its owner deletes the post in question.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has voiced concerns that Atlas is giving Trump misleading information about the coronavirus, according to what a federal official told CNN last month.
NBC News also recently reported that Redfield said about Atlas that, “Everything he says is false.”
Atlas has adopted a public position on COVID-19 that is much closer to Trump’s and contradicts the government’s medical experts who advised the president in the early months of the crisis, according to CNN.
Reacting to his tweet being removed, Atlas said in an email to Newsweek that he did not understand why this was done, emphasizing that “Twitter seems to be censoring the science if it goes against their own goals of public indoctrination.”
He said in an email to the Associated Press that his tweet was intended to show that “general population masks and mask mandates do not work,” and he clarified that the correct policy is to use masks when one cannot socially distance. Atlas added that infections exploded even with mandates in Los Angeles County, Miami-Dade County, Hawaii, Alabama, the Philippines, Japan and other places.
Trump has downplayed the importance of masks in reducing the spread of the virus, even after he contracted the disease, which has killed more than 215,000 Americans.
Researchers have concluded that masks can control the spread of the virus, and public health experts have urged the public to wear them. But Trump and his team often go without masks while campaigning.
Atlas, the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and a fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, has no expertise in public health or infectious diseases. He has criticized the coronavirus lockdowns and campaigned for children to return to classrooms. Some scientists view Atlas as promoting dangerous theories around “herd immunity.”
The move comes days after Twitter and Facebook moved quickly to limit the spread of an unverified political story published by the conservative-leaning New York Post. The story cited unverified emails from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, and it has not been confirmed by other publications. There have been no new tweets from the Post since Oct. 14, indicating Twitter may still be blocking the newspaper’s tweets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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