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Twitter Caught Up In This Year’s Annual Through With Chew Misinformation Orgy


Smokeless tobacco users are in for harassment this week, the 30th iteration of the annual Through With Chew orgy of smokeless tobacco misinformation.  Dippers and chewers will be demonized and the real science about the relative safety of their favored products will be twisted into fear-inspiring untruths.

Consider this Tweet, for example, from the U.S. Department of Defense @ucanquit2 account on February 11: “Smokeless tobacco users are 50x more likely to get cheek, gum & mouth cancer than nonusers.”  The DoD made the same bogus claim two years ago (here). 

I responded to this blatant fabrication with a Tweet of my own on February 15: “Your 50 claim is a complete fabrication by a staffer @theNCI. Here is the explanation: https://tinyurl.com/yxjsnugd . Furthermore, a large federally-funded study documented that men who dip/chew had ZERO excess risk for mouth cancer. ZERO. http://tinyurl.com/hd8nd49

After my Tweet was liked by 24 people and retweeted by 13, a strange chain of events occurred.  The Twitter accounts of many of the above were suspended.  The affected individuals pleaded with @TwitterSupport to make amends.  On February 16, I also asked for a correction:

“To @TwitterSupport, Pls restore me/others. I am a scientist, 25 years published in this field. My tweet was professional and credible. In 2010 @CarlBialik at @WSJ investigated ‘50’ number and reported it was a fabrication used by @AmericanCancer, others http://tinyurl.com/y6a7ox8a.”

That’s right.  Carl Bialik, “The Numbers Guy”, published a weekly column in the Wall Street Journal.  When Carl exposed the “50” myth (here) the American Cancer Society promised to stop using it: “Dr. Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends for the American Cancer Society, said this week that his organization will no longer use the statistic citing a 50-fold increase in risk.”

Yet still today, the Cancer Society and other tobacco prohibitionists tout the 50 number.      

This week’s Twitter account suspensions likely resulted from a complaint by an authoritative anti-tobacco figure or agency.  While I understand that Twitter aims to protect the integrity of the information on its platform, in this case they sanctioned the wrong party.

Note: As I post this on February 19, the suspended accounts have not been restored.  

February 22: Today Jacob Sullum authored an article on the Reason Hit and Run Blog, "Did Twitter Punish Criticism of Government Propaganda About Smokeless Tobacco. (here).  A few hours later affected users reported that their accounts were returned to normal functioning.


Original author: Brad Rodu
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