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Political Information : True US History Last Updated: Feb 21, 2021 - 6:22:11 AM

The Florida Data Scientist Arrested, Says She Refused to Alter COVID-19 Data
By Connor Perrett
Jan 19, 2021 - 5:35:49 PM

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January 19th 2021

The Florida data scientist who accused the state of firing her for refusing to alter COVID-19 data was arrested after she said she'd turn herself in

Connor Perrett
Business Insider

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida at a news conference in December at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida.
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara



  • Rebekah Jones, the Florida data scientist fired last year by the state's health department, has been arrested in Florida after she turned herself in.

  • Jones, who worked on the state's COVID-19 dashboard, was fired over what she alleges was a refusal to alter data related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

  • State officials say she was fired for insubordination.

  • Florida authorities in December executed a warrant on her property, seizing computers, phones, and external storage drives after she continued to publish Florida's COVID-19 data through her own dashboard.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A data scientist who has accused Florida's health department of firing her for refusing to alter COVID-19 data turned herself into authorities after they issued a warrant for her arrest.

The warrant was issued for the woman, Rebekah Jones, last week, about a month after authorities raided her Florida home. In a statement sent Monday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed to Insider that Jones had turned herself in to the Leon County Detention Facility and had been arrested on one charge of "offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices."

"Evidence retrieved from a search warrant on December 7 shows that Jones illegally accessed the system sending a message to approximately 1,750 people and downloaded confidential FDOH data and saved it to her device," a FDLE spokesperson said in a statement.

Jones had issued a thread of tweets Saturday in which she said she planned to turn herself in on Sunday, adding that a law-enforcement official told her lawyer that she could face additional charges should she speak with the media.

She took issue with the circumstances of a previous warrant, which allowed Florida law-enforcement officers to raid her home and seize computers, phones, and external storage devices on December 7. Jones sued the state after the raid, alleging civil-rights violations, and relocated from Florida to Washington, DC, according to a report from Florida Today.

Read more: People are randomly getting vaccinated at pharmacies because of extra doses that need to be used before they expire

"The raid was based on a lie," Jones said in a tweet Saturday.

Last week, a judge in Tallahassee declined to rule over whether state officials needed to return Jones' property seized during the raid until officials decided whether they planned to charge her in connection with what was obtained during the warrant on her property, as the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

"To protect my family from continued police violence, and to show that I'm ready to fight whatever they throw at me, I'm turning myself into police in Florida Sunday night," Jones wrote in another tweet. "The Governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out."

In May, Jones, who worked on the state's COVID-19 dashboard, was fired by the Florida Department of Health. State officials said then that Jones had been fired for a "repeated course of insubordination" and for "blatant disrespect for the professionals who were working around the clock to provide the important information for the COVID-19 website."

Jones, however, said her firing was the result of her refusal to alter COVID-19 data. At the time, Jones said her managers at the health department had told her to delete data that showed Florida residents had tested positive for the novel coronavirus as early as January. She also said she declined to alter data that would've made it appear that certain counties had met the criteria to scale back restrictions when they hadn't actually yet met such criteria.

Following her firing, Jones continued to upload and release data through her own online dashboard. But in December, Florida authorities obtained the search warrant and raided her home. Jones speculated Saturday she believed a condition of her release from jail might be her limiting her access to technology, limiting her ability to share information.

"Bogus charges designed to silence and now jail me for being a scientist critical of the government," she said. "That's the textbook definition of #censorship."


This article was updated on January 18 with confirmation that Jones was arrested.




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