Twitter permanently suspended the personal account of Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) yesterday, though her professional account remains active.
Greene has been an outspoken opponent of COVID-19 vaccines, routinely posting disinformation about the disease, the vaccines, and other health-related information. Her fifth strike on Twitter (yes, her fifth) came after she posted false claims about vaccine safety based on unverified raw data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, also known as VAERS.
“We’ve been clear that, per our strike system for this policy, we will permanently suspend accounts for repeated violations of the policy,” Katie Rosborough, a Twitter spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Greene posted about her suspension on Facebook, where she has about as many followers as her Twitter account did. “The Silicon Valley Cartel finally pulled the trigger,” she wrote. “Twitter has permanently suspended my account. Big Tech is the enemy of Free Speech. We will not forgot! [sic]” She then suggested that people follow her on Telegram, an encrypted messaging platform that has around 600 million users.
VAERS is a government-run database that accepts reports from health care providers and the public about any health issues that arise following a vaccination. If someone with congestive heart failure dies after receiving a vaccine, there’s a decent chance that death will show up in the database. Does it mean that the vaccine killed the person? Of course not—correlation does not equal causation. VAERS says as much in a disclaimer about its data:
While very important in monitoring vaccine safety, VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases.
Anti-vaccine organizations have even created their own filtered views of VAERS data to paint false and misleading pictures about the safety of vaccines.
In fact, the COVID vaccines, and the mRNA versions in particular, are safe and effective. If there were significant problems that could affect a wide swath of the population, it’s highly likely that we’d know by now—adverse events from COVID vaccines have historically occurred within eight weeks of a person receiving the shot. COVID vaccines have been administered to hundreds of millions of people for over a year now.
Since anyone can submit a report to VAERS, there’s potential for abuse. But according to the CDC, which manages the database, fraud seems to be rare. “We don’t have evidence that there is widespread fraud or gaming of the system,” Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, told Science. Fake reports are removed, and anyone found to be submitting a false report can be criminally charged.
Greene’s fourth strike in August brought a temporary suspension from Twitter after she falsely claimed that neither vaccines nor masks could reduce the transmission of COVID. Both masks and vaccines are effective at reducing the spread of the virus, of course.