November 30, 2022

Too bad Twitter didn’t shut down before we all had to read the latest dumb tweet from Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

She actually tweeted this Monday night: “So many people still wearing masks. I just want to ask you. If a pair of underwear, really thick ones, high quality cotton, can’t protect you from a fart, then how will a mask protect you from covid??”

Just to be clear, there’s an actual scientific explanation about why Greene’s ridiculous tweet is, well, ridiculous. Maybe her tweet was worth it just to see all the hilarious responses.

But there’s nothing funny about the headline on this story by CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan: “Twitter is no longer enforcing its Covid misinformation policy.”

Back in 2020, Twitter put in place rules to guard against “harmful misinformation” about the COVID-19 and vaccines. Based on Twitter statistics, Twitter suspended more than 11,000 accounts between January 2020 and September 2022 for breaking those COVID misinformation rules. In addition, Twitter removed nearly 100,000 pieces of content.

But this appeared on Twitter’s website this week regarding “COVID-19 Misinformation” in the “Transparency” section: “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”

Tweets such as Greene’s are just silly and don’t really fall under the category of dangerous or qualify as misinformation. But with the rules thrown out, when COVID is still killing 300 Americans a day, the concerns go far beyond another dumb tweet from Greene.

The Associated Press’ David Klepper wrote, “​​Twitter’s decision to no longer remove false claims about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines disappointed public health officials … who said it could lead to more false claims about the virus, or the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”

While Musk raises a fist in the air and champions what he believes is free speech, we see just how dangerous that his unfettered free speech can be.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joseph De Avila and Sarah E. Needleman wrote, “Twitter’s policy change makes it an outlier among major social-media companies on curbing COVID-19 misinformation. Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta Platforms Inc., have policies for removing false or misleading content related to Covid-19. TikTok, owned by ByteDance Ltd., has a similar policy. Snap Inc. has outlined its approach to preventing the spread of false information related to COVID-19.”

O’Sullivan wrote, “Musk says he has twice had COVID. Despite his skepticism of public health policy, he has said he supports vaccination, even if he doesn’t believe the shots should be mandated. Still, he said in a New York Times podcast interview with technology journalist Kara Swisher in September 2020 that he would not get vaccinated because, ‘I’m not at risk for COVID, nor are my kids.’ When Swisher confronted Musk with the possibility that many people could die if they didn’t follow public health recommendations, he replied bluntly: ‘Everybody dies.’”

Meanwhile, here’s yet another disturbing headline involving Twitter. This is from a story by Wired Magazine’s Morgan Meaker: “Layoffs have gutted Twitter’s child safety team.”

Meaker writes, “… just one staff member remains on a key team dedicated to removing child sexual abuse content from the site, according to two people with knowlege of the matter.”

Lemon on Colbert

When Chris Licht took over as the new boss at CNN, his mandate appeared to have been pushing the network to more centrist coverage. If that is actually the case (and Licht claims it is not) then wouldn’t that mean the network wasn’t already centrist? Wouldn’t that mean they leaned one way or the other? In this case, one could surmise that CNN gravitated to the left.

On his show Monday night, CBS late-night host Stephen Colbert asked CNN morning anchor Don Lemon about that. Colbert said, “The word on the street is you guys aren’t allowed to be liberal anymore. Is that the case?”

Lemon said, “I don’t think we ever were liberal.”

One could certainly make a case that CNN never leaned as far left as MSNBC and it certainly doesn’t lean as far left as Fox News leans right. Not even close. But you’d have a hard time convincing regular cable viewers that CNN, under former boss Jeff Zucker, was straight down the middle.

So what might Licht’s CNN look like moving forward?

Lemon told Colbert, “I think what Chris is saying is that he wants Republicans — sensible Republicans. He wants us to hold people to account, but he wants people to come on and feel comfortable with coming on and talking on CNN and appearing on CNN.”

Lemon added, “So, if you invite someone into your house, you want to make them comfortable. But also, by the nature of what we do, we have to hold people to account. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going liberal or conservative or whatever. It just means that we are doing what we do and that’s good journalism.”

Lemon was quick to point out that there still are occasions when journalists must be confrontational.

“Listen, I have confrontational conversations with people I love and I have uncomfortable conversations with people that I love and I think it’s necessary,” Lemon said. “And I think it’s also necessary to do that on CNN. But you can do that without being vitriolic. I think not being vitriolic is a better way of putting it. You can do that and not have vitriol. As people say, you can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s what our mission is.”

For the record, Licht has disagreed with the idea that he is pushing CNN to the middle. He told the Financial Times earlier this month, “One of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is (expletive). You have to be compelling. You have to have edge. In many cases you take a side. Sometimes you just point out uncomfortable questions. But either way you don’t see it through a lens of left or right.”

By the way, Licht used to be the executive producer of Colbert’s show. Colbert joked with Lemon, “He would stand right over there and hit the applause sign before we went to commercial — basically all his job was. Now he has a really hard job, running CNN.”

Apple’s podcast of the year

Apple has named its 2022 podcast of the year: Slate’s “Slow Burn.”

“Slow Burn” actually launched in 2017 and the first season was about the Watergate scandal. This year’s four-episode season was released throughout June and focused on Roe v. Wade. The podcast came together a month after the Supreme Court’s leaked draft that indicated the court was going to overturn the landmark 1973 decision. The 2022 season was hosted by Slate executive editor Susan Matthews.

Matthews said in a statement to Apple, “I wanted to make this series because I was really discouraged by how polarized and stuck the conversation around abortion was, and it seemed incredibly timely and important. We set out to tell this story in a way that helped expand and challenge what people understood about this subject. We decided the way to approach this season was to go back to the early ’70s, when the abortion debate was still up in the air and your party affiliation didn’t correlate with your views on the issue.”

A special edition

(Photo courtesy of The Washington Post Magazine)

The Washington Post Magazine has a special edition coming today called “The Unwritten Rights Issue.” The Post will spotlight the impact of many of the major unwritten rights that the Supreme Court has recognized under substantive due process.

Abortion, for example, was one of those rights. There are others, and the Post will features stories about those impacted by Supreme Court rulings protecting interracial and same-sex marriages, foreign-language education, contraception, an extended family’s decision to share a home, and more.

The issue will be published online today and in print this Sunday.

Media tidbits

Hot type

For The New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich with “The Enduring Metal Genius of Metallica.”

In an appreciation piece for Andscape, Keith Murphy with “Irene Cara experienced both the highs and lows of ‘Fame.’”

The New York Times Book Review with “The 10 Best Books of 2022.”

More resources for journalists

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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