Rebekah Jones, who formerly maintained Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard but was fired last year as she raised concerns about transparency, was suspended Monday from Twitter for “platform manipulation and spam.”
The suspension comes after Jones repeatedly shared a recent Miami Herald article about law enforcement officers raiding her home, her observations during her time at the Florida Department of Health and more.
Twitter notified Jones that it received an appeal from her regarding the state of her account, according to a screenshot that Jones sent to the Herald.
“It was clearly an auto-lock feature against spamming. Should be back up soon,” Jones told the Herald.
Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, said on her personal Twitter account the action by Twitter was “long overdue.” She said Jones was not being censored, but that she was suspended for, among other things, buying Twitter followers.
According to Twitter’s rules, “platform manipulation” can mean buying Twitter followers, but it can also mean other things, such as repeatedly posting tweets or sending direct messages consisting of links shared without commentary.
Pushaw did not explain on what she based her claim. Her incoming direct messages are disabled.
An official statement from DeSantis’ office called Jones a “super-spreader of COVID-19 disinformation.”
Critics of the governor, however, were quick to call DeSantis a phony for praising the suspension as he touts legislation that aims to make it harder for social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to deplatform people, including former President Donald Trump, a DeSantis ally.
“Speech that is inconvenient to the narrative will be protected,” the governor said last month when he signed the bill.
Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat, called the governor “Hipócrita” — Spanish for hypocrite.
“So @GovRonDeSantis AGREES with Twitter suspending accounts but only when he agrees with them??” Taddeo posted on Twitter.
Among the issues Jones raised amid her firing, she said she was asked to remove data from the dashboard — a website offering critical COVID information — after members of the news media, including the Miami Herald, questioned her about the numbers. The numbers in question were removed but eventually restored.
After her dismissal, Jones raised money through a GoFundMe account, some of which she used to create her own rival COVID-19 dashboard.
Jones’ home was raided last December by agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who, with guns drawn, confiscated her electronics, looking for evidence that she had illegally accessed a state messaging app. She was later charged with a third-degree felony. The charge is pending.
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The health department’s office of the Inspector General recently informed Jones’ attorneys that she qualifies for whistleblower status as prescribed by law and that the office found “reasonable cause” to open an investigation into actions and decisions made by Department of Health leaders.
Miami Herald data and investigative reporter Sarah Blaskey contributed to this report.