Twitter on Wednesday suspended the account operated by Dr. Robert Malone, a U.S.-based virologist and immunologist who claims to be the inventor of mRNA technology and is an outspoken critic of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.
Malone is an internationally recognized vaccine researcher who has authored dozens of scientific papers and been cited thousands of times. He was the primary author of a 1989 paper that demonstrated how RNA could be delivered into cells and a co-author on a 1990 paper that showed how injecting pure RNA or DNA into mouse muscle cells can lead to the transcription of new proteins. His work has been described as "seminal" in the field of mRNA-vaccine development.
Although Malone supports vaccines as a medical doctor, he believes that the steps the United States government has taken to bring mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to market from Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna "have been detrimental and contrary to globally accepted standards for developing and regulating safe and effective licensed products." He shares his views on social media.
In a post on Substack Wednesday, he wrote that his Twitter account had over half a million followers when it was permanently suspended.
"Over a half million followers gone in a blink of an eye. That means I must have been on the mark, so to speak. Over the target. It also means we lost a critical component in our fight to stop these vaccines being mandated for children and to stop the corruption in our governments, as well as the medical-industrial complex and pharmaceutical industries," Malone wrote.
He did not give a specific reason for his suspension. A Twitter spokesperson said Malone's account was permanently suspended for "repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation policy."
Malone has gathered a large following in conservative media for his opposition to government vaccine mandates and recommendations against having children under age 18 get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 5 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against severe illness and death caused by COVID-19, and public health officials have repeatedly insisted that the vaccines are safe and effective for children and adults.
Twitter has strict rules prohibiting users from spreading "false or misleading information" about COVID-19 or the vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The platform prohibits users from making posts that claim the vaccines are dangerous or that adverse side effects have been covered up by governments or the medical industry.
Malone also has accounts on Gab and Gettr, two alternative social media platforms that are popular with users who believe Twitter censors conservative viewpoints. He posts links to his Substack articles on those accounts, some of which discuss COVID-19 and question the safety of the vaccines in adolescents and younger children, likely violating Twitter's rules.
In one recent video that went viral, Malone gave a statement making several claims about the mRNA COVID-19 shots being harmful to children. His claims were opposed by other health experts, who accused him of spreading misinformation about the vaccines.
AFP Fact Check reviewed Malone's video statement and cited medical experts who contested claims Malone made. For instance, Malone said that spike proteins in mRNA vaccines are "toxic" and can "cause permanent damage in children's critical organs."
Paul Offit, an infectious disease physician and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said that was false.
"There's no evidence, either in experimental animals or people," he told AFP.
"There is absolutely no evidence that the spike proteins generated in response to the Covid-19 vaccine are toxic," Deborah Greenhouse, a fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics, added.
According to AFP, messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, vaccines work by artificially replicating the coronavirus spike protein, which the body learns to recognize and develops an immune response to fight off later.
"The spike protein is a useful target for the vaccine because it is different than other proteins that humans can produce," Greenhouse explained. "So our immune system is able to recognize it as foreign and mount an immune response against it. There is also no evidence that the spike protein remains in the body longer than other typical proteins and no evidence that it causes significant damage."
While there is clear evidence that some younger men have developed heart inflammation as a side effect of the vaccine, the experts said such side effects are rare and temporary.
At the end of his video, Malone said "there's no benefit for your children or your family to be vaccinating your children against the small risks of the virus." Each of the doctors that spoke to AFP emphatically rejected this claim.
"The theoretical risk of Covid vaccines absolutely do not outweigh the benefit of the vaccine," Greenhouse said.
"Over 1,000 children have now died from Covid infection. Tens of thousands have been hospitalized. One of my patients was hospitalized this past week with significant illness from Covid disease," she said.
"The vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective for children five years of age and older," Greenhouse said, adding: "The risk benefit ratio based upon data available to this point clearly favors vaccinating children ages five-11."
Offit told AFP Malone's video was "dangerously, flagrantly incorrect." If Malone promoted the video on his Twitter account, or made similar claims there, he would almost certainly have violated Twitter's rules and triggered the suspension.
Editor's note: This article was updated on 12/29/2021 at 4:48 p.m. ET to include comment from a Twitter spokesperson.