Twitter Removes White House Adviser's Tweet Saying Masks Do Not Prevent COVID-19

Twitter has removed a tweet from White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas that claimed masks don't work to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"Masks work? NO," Atlas had tweeted Saturday, followed by misrepresentations of the science behind the effectiveness of masks in battling the coronavirus pandemic. Atlas also shared a link to an article in The American Institute for Economic Research that argues against the effectiveness of masks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people wear masks in public settings around people who don't live in their household, especially when it is not possible to maintain social distancing. "Masks help stop the spread of COVID-19 to others," the CDC states on its website.

Atlas, a neuroradiologist, shared his tweet again later on Saturday, adding that it showed President Donald Trump's guidelines on masks was the "right policy" and no widespread mask mandates were needed.

But Twitter removed Atlas's original tweet by Sunday morning, leaving behind a message that says: "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules."

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed to Newsweek that Atlas's tweet was in violation of the platform's COVID-19 misleading information policy.

According to Twitter, the policy prohibits sharing false or misleading content related to COVID-19 which could lead to harm. It specifically includes guidance on "statements or assertions that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by subject-matter experts, such as public health authorities."

In an email to Newsweek, Atlas said he didn't understand why Twitter had deleted his tweet, which included abbreviated citations of multiple sources, some months old, on the effectiveness of widespread mask wearing. "Twitter seems to be censoring the science if it goes against their own goals of public indoctrination," Atlas said.

Atlas added that he "specifically and immediately" had clarified in another tweet that the correct policy was "use masks when one cannot socially distance."

Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation recently estimated that if 95 percent of Americans wore masks, it could save up to 100,000 lives from COVID-19 by January 1.

Atlas has appealed the deleted tweet and is unable to access his Twitter account while Twitter reviews the appeal, according to a screenshot provided to Newsweek.

That means the right policy is @realDonaldTrump guideline: use masks for their intended purpose - when close to others, especially hi risk. Otherwise, social distance. No widespread mandates. #CommonSense

— Scott W. Atlas (@SWAtlasHoover) October 17, 2020

Since coming out of isolation after contracting coronavirus himself, Trump has shown a new determination to minimize the threat of the virus that has killed more than 219,000 people in the U.S.

At his NBC News town hall on Thursday night, the president was asked if he should have reconsidered announcing his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court with a Rose Garden ceremony in September that has been described as a "super spreader" event by the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Several attendees, including the president, later tested positive for the virus.

He replied by incorrectly citing a CDC study to falsely suggest that mask wearing doesn't mitigate the spread of the virus. The study didn't say that.

Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, have not been seen with the president in public for months.

According to the Associated Press, there are tensions between scientists on the task force and Atlas, a frequent guest on Fox News who joined the White House as a pandemic advisor in August.

They view Atlas as promoting dangerous theories around "herd immunity" and fighting against calls for Americans to wear face masks to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Atlas has long questioned coronavirus polices that have been embraced by public health experts in the U.S. and abroad.

In an op-ed for The Hill in April, Atlas lamented that coronavirus lockdowns might have prevented the development of "natural herd immunity." He wrote: "In the absence of immunization, society needs circulation of the virus, assuming high-risk people can be isolated."

Earlier this month, Atlas attracted criticism after claiming that "scientists all over the world" agree with Trump's approach to handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atlas told Newsweek at the time that Trump "has always followed the most current science to do everything possible to save lives and end the pandemic." He added: "That is also true about everything that I have advised. And to claim otherwise is beyond outrageous."

This article has been updated with comments from Twitter and Scott Atlas.

Dr. Scott Atlas, advisor to President Donald Trump delivers an update on the nations coronavirus testing strategy in the Rose Garden of the White House on September 28, in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images