Twitter must enforce their policy to remove or flag COVID-19 misinfo. Start with Gov. Noem’s retweet.

Twitter has a policy that can be used to remove or flag COVID-19 misinfo, but not everyone knows how to use it. To illustrate how this policy can be used I wrote a letter to Joshua Clayton, South Dakota’s Department of Health State Epidemiologist. On Dec 22 Governor Noem retweeted the following thread by Justin Hart. It disputes the efficacy of a mask mandate. (Twitter Link)

  • Do you, the state epidemiologist, agree with this “evidence“?
  • Does the South Dakota Department of Health agree with this analysis?
  • If you disagree, what steps has your agency taken to prevent misinformation about this serious public health crisis from being distributed by the Governor?

I know you are busy, I’m only contacting you because your communications director, Derrick Haskins, has been gone since Nov. 3 (although his info is still on your website as of 12/28/20) If you have already answered this question for state & local media please have someone send me the response you gave them.

I’m aware people have gotten death threats when they advocated for mask mandates publicly. If that is a concern in your case: Please contact @TwitterSafety to put a flag on COVID-19 misinformation retweeted by the Governor.

“We will label or remove false or misleading information about: Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as claims about the efficacy and safety of face masks to reduce viral spread” Twitter misleading info update
2. Is the claim demonstrably false or misleading? “Under this policy, we consider claims to be false or misleading if (1) they have been confirmed to be false by subject-matter experts, such as public health authorities”

When you contact @TwitterSafety please let them know your titles and positions so they know you are not just some random person, but a subject-matter expert in your state .

You should also know that as of December 16th Twitter @Policy has updated their policy to include misinformation about vaccinations.

…we are expanding the policy and may require people to remove Tweets which advance harmful false or misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccinations. Twitter December 16 Covid 19- vaccine misleading information update

I understand your careers may be threatened if you speak out publicly against the governor. I have worked with whistleblowers in the past and watched how Governors in Florida and Nebraska have attacked their critics in their own government, I trust that you are keeping good email records and contemporaneous memos for future investigations and lawsuits.

To help you in that regard I’ve copied ASTHO, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and NACCHO, the National Association of County and City Health Officials. I’ve listed the regional directors that you may know professionally and staff members of these professional organizations who may be able to help you in dealing with elected officials sending out misinformation.

I’ve also copied South Dakota Nurses Association, South Dakota Health Care Association and the Nurse Practitioner Association of South Dakota, who have a vested interest in making sure the Governor of your state sends out an accurate message on public health. They will want to know what steps you are taking behind the scenes, since publicly there is no change in the Governor’s message on a mask mandate.

Finally, I’ve listed a few media outlets you regularly communicate with such as KELO-TV’s Angela Kennecke who did a piece disputing the claims about mask mandates.

I am not an expert on how to save lives during this pandemic, but you are. The Governor has found other sources to justify her decision not to pass a mask mandate or implement and enforce other public health policies.

Joshua, you have the expertise and tools to prevent misinformation from spreading and to have it removed from Twitter, please do so.

You may have already addressed this issue, but as of December 29th that retweet still stands with no label.
Michal Spocko
Senior Health, Safety & Activism Reporter

South Dakota Department of Health
Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health
Beth Dokken, Division Director, Family and Community Health
Mark Gildemaster, Health Statistics
Dustin Ortbahn, Infectious Disease Surveillance
Bill Chalcraft, Public Health Preparedness & Response

ASTHO, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Rachel Levine, MD President
Secretary of Health, Pennsylvania Department of Health Region 8 Director: ND, SD, CO, WY, MT, UT
Gregory S Holzman, MD, MPH, State Medical Officer Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

South Dakota Nurses Association
Eric Ollila, Executive Director
Deb Fischer-Clemens, President

Nurse Practitioner Association of South Dakota
Abigail Gramlick-Mueller, CNP, President.

South Dakota Health Care Association, 
Mark B. Deak, Executive Director
Brett Hoffman, Director of Public Policy and Communications

KELO-TV Angela Kennecke, Investigative reporter/news anchor KELO-TV Bob Mercer, Capitol Bureau Argus Leader Makenzie Huber, Business reporter Joe Sneve, Watchdog reporter covering South Dakota politics
AP  Regina Garcia Cano James Nord South Dakota Public Broadcasting Lee Strubinger
Rapid City Journal Pat Butler, Managing Editor Morgan Matzen, Reporter Capital Journal Casey Junkins
Aberdeen News Scott Waltman, Managing Editor Elisa Sand — K-12 education, courts and politics reporter KNBN-TV Rapid City Chris Dancy, News Director
Dakota News Now Kevin King, News Director Vanessa Gomez, anchor KXNET Hannah Woosley-Collins,

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