Silicon Valley’s Aaron Ginn penned a Medium post on Friday, titled “Evidence over hysteria—COVID-19,” that quickly went viral, but was taken down within 24 hours by the popular publishing platform.
“Wow. After 2.6M views 5.5K claps in less than 24hrs, @Medium took down my article for ‘violations’ I guess citations from CDC, John Hopkins, WHO, is too much for the thought police,” wrote Ginn, who credits himself with popularizing the “growth hacking movement” in Silicon Valley, in a tweet blasting the platform’s decision to remove the post from its website.
In his article, Ginn accused the media of fueling a panic over the novel coronavirus based on various sources of data that he reviewed.
For instance, in one section in his post he noted: “The World Health Organization (“WHO”) released a study on how China responded to COVID-19.” Adding: “results of their research show that COVID-19 doesn’t spread as easily as we first thought or the media had us believe.”
Ginn also argued that comparing total cases across countries is a meaningless “vanity statistic,” or “a single data point with no context,” since the United States is a far larger country than Italy and other European countries with higher infection rates on a per capita basis.
A controversial post with ‘glaring flaws’
However, Ginn’s Medium post was not without controversy, as scientists and experts picked it apart on Twitter arguing it suffered from “glaring flaws,” basic mistakes, and ignorance in the field of epidemiology.
One of the most notable criticisms came from University of Washington biology professor Carl Bergstrom. “I hate to invest precious time on taking apart the atrocious [Aaron Ginn] article pictured below, but it is getting too much traction here and even in traditional media,” the biologist wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread dissecting the post.
“The author discusses the apparent decline in daily growth rate irrespective of control measures. He begins with some truism about small numbers being easy to move; this is irrelevant in the face of the exponential growth that he stresses in literally the previous sentence,” he wrote.
Bergstrom, who specializes in developing mathematical models and computer simulations to address biological challenges, also noted a series of inconsistencies and what he said are rookie errors with Ginn’s analysis. For example, to argue that COVID-19 will eventually fade away by the summer, Ginn cited “Farr’s Law,” a rule of thumb that argues epidemics take a bell-curve shape.
“I don’t know how the author could have more effectively discredited himself to the epidemiology community with any two other words,” Bergstrom wrote, noting how when researchers famously applied “Farr’s law” to the HIV outbreak, they concluded the virus that causes AIDS would fade away by the mid 1990s, which it obviously did not.
“Science is not a like a high school English essay, where you get to cherry-pick the quotes that support your point.” Bergstrom concluded.