Issues & Insights

Twitter Fritters Away Its Credibility

I participate relatively little on social media. I am on Twitter, mainly to boost exposure of my articles, which focus primarily on scientific or medical subjects.  Recently, I tweeted about an exciting new approach to creating coronavirus vaccines to protect against, among other viruses, new variants of SARS-CoV-2 (which cause COVID-19).  As explained below, that’s when my bizarre clash with Twitter began.

The experimental vaccine, created in the Caltech lab of professor Pamela Bjorkman, works by presenting the immune system with pieces of the spike proteins from SARS-CoV-2 and seven other SARS-like coronaviruses, all attached to a protein nanoparticle structure. When injected into mice or monkeys, they induce the production of a broad spectrum of antibodies – immune system proteins that recognize and fight off specific pathogens – as well as cellular immune responses involving various white blood cells.

Notably, when vaccinated with this so-called “mosaic nanoparticle,” mice and nonhuman primates were protected from an additional coronavirus, SARS-CoV, that was not one of the eight represented in the nanoparticle vaccine. This extended protection is important because of the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to mutate and evade immune protection from vaccines or previous infection – which, of course, is what we’re seeing with Omicron subvariant BA.5. Professor Bjorkman and her colleagues plan soon to evaluate their vaccine in humans in a Phase 1 clinical trial.

This work is important because with the numbers of COVID-19 infections continuing at a high level in the U.S. and elsewhere, epidemiologists and virologists expect that it’s only a matter of time until new subvariants proliferate and predominate. The Caltech research offers hope that its vaccine will be effective against them.

Let’s return to my tweet about these exciting and promising experiments. This is, verbatim, what I posted on Twitter on July 28:

“Nanoparticle Vaccine Protects Against a Spectrum of COVID-19-causing Variants and Related Viruses”: From the lab of Prof. Pamela Bjorkman, the David Baltimore Professor of Biology at Caltech. (David Baltimore was my virology professor at MIT!)

A few days later, I received this email from Twitter:

Delete Tweet

Tweet 1 of 1

Violating the policy on spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.

We understand that during times of crisis and instability, it is difficult to know what to do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Under this policy, we require the removal of content that may pose a risk to people’s health, including content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.

Henry Miller, MS, MD

“Nanoparticle Vaccine Protects Against a Spectrum of COVID-19-causing Variants and Related Viruses”: From the lab of Prof. Pamela Bjorkman, the David Baltimore Professor of Biology at Caltech. (David Baltimore was my virology professor at MIT!)

Jul 28, 2022, 4:18 PM

That was bad enough, but the rest of Twitter’s message went beyond puzzling, to offensive:

By clicking Delete, you acknowledge that your Tweet violated the Twitter Rules.

If you think we’ve made a mistake, submit an appeal to us. Please note that should you do so, your account will remain locked while we review your appeal.

I did submit an appeal of my suspension to Twitter, explaining the importance and provenance of my tweet and describing my professional bona fides, but received no response. Finally, after a couple of days, I clicked on “Delete,” feeling like a political prisoner in China or Russia being forced to stand up in court and admit that, yes, I did criticize the government, I repent, and I deserve to spend 20 years in a penal colony. 

This is all remarkable in several respects. First, anyone who participates on Twitter knows that much of what is posted is the most outrageous misinformation and twaddle about all sorts of things – paranoid ravings about the dangers of COVID vaccines, dark government conspiracies, purloined elections, quack medical treatments, and so on. But more important is that not only was my tweet obviously not misinformation, but it provided new, intriguing, research findings published in a prestigious journal about a front-page issue.

Clearly, Twitter has a problem with who judges what constitutes misinformation and with the intelligence and manners (or lack thereof) of those who consider appeals of suspensions. Maybe it’s Twitter that deserves a suspension.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He was previously a Research Associate at NIH and a Consulting Professor at Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies.

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  • Science is silenced when it conflicts with the official ruling party narrative. Or in this case, when a dimwit twirp newly-brainwashed from 4 years of college arbitrarily decrees it to be so. You are living inside a Franz Kafka novel created for you by woke dimwit twirps. In the USSR under Stalin, talking or publishing western genetic theories led to a person’s permanent disappearance or death. At least Twitter did not put a bullet in the back of your head and leave you for dead by the roadside or in an unmarked grave in a remote forest. Perhaps in the future, when Twitter emails the IRS and its 87,000 newly-armed enforcement agents about your vaxx transgression, your life will be cancelled, along with your credit cards and bank accounts, and all record of your existence will be purged from the Internet.

    Apparently, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn is just as bad with the censorship of science that contradicts the Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab or USA ruling party narrative:

  • It has been a long time since Twitter has had any credibility. There is nothing left to fritter away.

  • While I sympathize with Dr. Miller, the reality is that the best way to deal with Twitter is to not be on it in the first place. Yes, Twitter – and Facebook – are tempting means of promoting one’s own articles, books, etc. but the reality is that they are both highly political and by subscribing to them, one is merely helping them increase their circulation. Ditch Twitter!

  • I wonder what part of the wording triggered their software

    I see that it is the title of the article you linked

    Isn’t AI wonderful?

    • I wondered about that, too at first, but it seems inconceivable that there was anything in my brief, straightforward tweet that could have triggered an AI rejection/suspension. I suspect that a few activists who don’t approve of my pro-science views got together and reported me to Twitter for posting misinformation, and some clueless munchkin at Twitter support took them at their word.

  • Not to worry, Elon ‘Pedo Guy’ Musk is set to be forced into buying Twitter, and we all know what the likely outcome of that will be after he turns it into even more of a festering cesspit.

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