The final straw for social media giant Twitter, in terms of Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's personal account, involved an obscure government database that tracks adverse events for people who get vaccinated.
The database shows nearly 20,000 people have died after getting COVID-19 vaccines, but Greene was suggesting the deaths were caused by the vaccines — which health officials say is misleading.
"Extremely high amounts of COVID vaccine deaths are ignored and government-forced vaccine mandates increase," Greene tweeted.
A day after Twitter permanently suspended the account for its alleged violations of Twitter's terms of service, the Times Free Press reviewed all five "strikes" tallied by the company to review the record in terms of what she said and how health officials say her words are dangerous to members of the public who might end up misinformed about the pandemic that has killed more than 30,000 Georgians.
The most recent of the five strikes happened Saturday. In the Twitter post, Greene claimed vaccine injury and death reports gathered by the government database of unverified raw data called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System proved the government was ignoring deaths resulting from the COVID-19 vaccine. She illustrated her point with a chart comparing data reported to the system about vaccines treating illnesses like cholera, hepatitis, influenza and pneumonia to the data that has been reported so far in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine.
A vaccine for diphtheria, a serious infection of the nose and throat that makes breathing difficult and includes symptoms like sore throat and fever, ranked as second most deadly, according to Greene's data, with 3,151 deaths, compared with the COVID-19 vaccine's 18,078.
"Before COVID, reported deaths from vaccines were taken seriously and dangerous vaccines were stopped," Greene tweeted, before making the claim about extremely high COVID-19 vaccine deaths.
Health authorities have come forward since her suspension from Twitter to say the data cited in her post was misleading.
The database relies on self-reported cases from patients and health care providers. While it is managed by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the database's website states that it is "not designed to determine if a vaccine caused a health problem" and is instead useful for "detecting unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse event reporting that might indicate a possible safety problem with a vaccine."
The CDC website further states the FDA requires health care providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to the database, "even if it's unclear whether the vaccine was the cause."
"Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem," the website states.
Spokesperson Logan Boss of the 10-county Northwest Georgia Health District said he and others at the Department of Public Health view the database as "pretty controversial."
"If you've researched it, you know anyone can go on there and pretty much enter anything," he said during a phone call with the Times Free Press on Monday. "There's no verification of the data, so I never really look at it. We are sort of skeptical of it."
The messaging from the Georgia Department of Public Health remains the same, he said.
"As with any vaccine, there will likely be some side effects. We know that, but we also know that getting the vaccine is the best thing you can do to keep from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 and to avoid being hospitalized," Boss said. "There are a lot of distractions as far as people trying to get good information goes. I respect everyone's right to express their own opinion about things, but that is our message: Getting the vaccine lessens your chance of getting COVID dramatically."
This is not the first time Greene has landed herself in hot water on social media as a result of her more controversial views.
In January 2021, Greene was suspended from Twitter for 12 hours after sharing a clip from an interview with a local news outlet in which she criticized Georgia election officials and expressed support for claims that problems with voting machines, absentee ballots and other issues affected the outcome of the presidential election within the state. State officials have repeatedly said the election was aboveboard, and multiple recounts confirmed President Joe Biden's win in Georgia over former President Donald Trump.
At the time, Twitter labeled the thread with the following messaging: "This claim about election fraud is disputed, and this tweet can't be replied to, retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence."
Since January, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has spent a great deal of time attempting to clear up concerns about election irregularities related to the 2020 election, including through several recent town hall calls. In one such call with residents of Northwest Georgia two weeks ago, Raffensperger said investigations into the matter have proven claims of fraud to be mostly false.
He said investigators looked into every tip that was sent in, whether they were allegations that deceased people had voted or claims that residents who were not yet 18 cast ballots. After an audit and two recounts — including one 100% hand recount — they found only four instances in which someone voted in the place of a deceased person, and no one under 18 was found to have cast a ballot.
Greene also racked up two violations in July and was suspended for 12 hours after sending two tweets arguing COVID-19 was not dangerous for people unless they were obese or over the age of 65 and said that vaccines should not be required.
Data from the state of Georgia breaks down age ranges in increments of 10, not five. The data shows, among people hospitalized with COVID-19 during the pandemic — the most serious cases — 48,100 have been 60 and older, compared to 46,600 who were 59 and younger. And among cases that list underlying conditions as contributing to COVID-19 deaths, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking are all listed more often than obesity.
In August 2021, Greene was suspended from Twitter for seven days after posting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should not give COVID-19 vaccines full approval and that vaccines were "failing." According to her, neither masks nor the vaccine were helping reduce the spread of the virus.
In response to Twitter's decision to permanently ban her from the site, Greene said she will be using GETTR, Telegram and Gab to communicate with constituents.
"Twitter is an enemy to America and can't handle the truth. That's fine. I'll show America we don't need them and it's time to defeat our enemies," she said in a statement to the Times Free Press. "They can't successfully complete a communist revolution when people tell the truth.
"Social media platforms can't stop the truth from being spread far and wide. Big tech can't stop the truth. Communist Democrats can't stop the truth. I stand with the truth and the people. We will overcome!"
Greene's problems don't stop with Twitter. Facebook issued a 24-hour suspension Monday for the vaccine database post as well.
In a post to her account on GETTR, the social media platform launched by Jason Miller, a spokesman and senior adviser for former President Donald Trump, Greene said a Monday decision by Facebook to temporarily suspend her account goes further than censorship of speech, hindering her ability to fairly represent her constituents.
"Facebook has joined Twitter in censoring me. This is beyond censorship of speech," she said in the post. "I'm an elected member of Congress representing over 700,000 U.S. tax-paying citizens and I represent their voices, values, defend their freedoms and protect the Constitution."
Along with the post, Greene shared a screenshot of a message from Facebook that read: "You can't post or comment for 24 hours. This is because you previously posted something that didn't follow our community standards."
Censorship is defined as the government restricting speech. Lawsuits claiming free speech rights on a private company's platform are routinely dismissed as the social media outlets are private, not public, forums.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at email@example.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.