OAN’s Noah Herring
11:55 AM – Wednesday, August 2, 2023
According to internal communications that were leaked by an insider to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Facebook removed content related to COVID-19 due to pressure from the Biden administration.
The emails show that Facebook executives discussed how they removed users’ posts regarding information on the origins of the pandemic that the Biden administration was looking to control.
“Can someone quickly remind me why we were removing—rather than demoting/labeling—claims that COVID-19 is man made?” asked Nick Clegg in a July 2021 email to colleagues. Clegg is Facebook’s president of global affairs.
The Facebook platform rebranded and changed its name to Meta in October 28th, 2021.
“We were under pressure from the administration and others to do more,” Facebook’s vice president in charge of content policy responded, speaking of the Biden administration.
“We shouldn’t have done it,” the VP added.
The conversation took place around August 2021, which was three months after the platform reversed its ban on posts describing the COVID-19 virus as being man-made in the midst of increasing debates around the virus’s origin.
The email, along with other internal company communications, were obtained by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee, which is currently in the middle of an investigation probing the Biden administration’s efforts to censor American’s free speech on social media.
The White House claims that its discussions with social media companies were intended to promote the adoption of vaccines and other “public-health goals.”
“We have consistently made it clear that we believe social-media companies have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects of their platforms that they have on the American people, while making independent decisions about the content of their platforms,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a Thursday press briefing.
The emails that were viewed by the WSJ date back to the spring and summer of 2021, when the White House was promoting a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine push to Americans. Part of that effort included a public and private campaign to get Facebook to regulate anti-COVID-19 vaccine information more aggressively.
The Biden administration believed that many Americans were hesitant to get the new vaccines due to information seen on social media. “They’re killing people,” President Biden said in July.
However, detractors argue that since the COVID-19 shots were manufactured and disseminated in less than a year, that was a major reason for their hesitation. Under normal circumstances, making a vaccine can take up to 10–15 years, according to Medical News Today.
Following the president’s comments, Facebook’s vice president crafted a memo that assessed the difference between Facebook’s content policies and the Biden administration’s demands.
“There is likely a significant gap between what the WH would like us to remove and what we are comfortable removing,” The vice president said. “The WH has previously indicated that it thinks humor should be removed if it is premised on the vaccine having side effects, so we expect it would similarly want to see humor about vaccine hesitancy removed.”
“I can’t see Mark in a million years being comfortable with removing that—and I wouldn’t recommend it,” Clegg wrote in an email following the vice president’s remarks, referencing Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
In some of the emails, Facebook executives described concern over the removal of posts in which they argued could make people less likely to get the shot.
“There may be risk of pushing them further toward hesitancy by suppressing their speech and making them feel marginalized by large institutions,” said one draft memo to Facebook leadership, included in an April 2021 email.
As Clegg prepared for his trip to meet with the U.S. surgeon general about vaccine misinformation in July 2021, he emailed his colleagues, “My sense is that our current course—in effect explaining ourselves more fully, but not shifting on where we draw the lines…is a recipe for protracted and increasing acrimony.”
“Given the bigger fish we have to fry with the Administration—data flows etc—that doesn’t seem a great place for us to be, so grateful for any further creative thinking on how we can be responsive to their concerns,” he added.
In August of the same year, Facebook executives emailed back-and-fourth about the new changes to their COVID-19 policies. One of the changes increased punishments for online users who broke these policies and had accounts on both Facebook and Instagram, according to the email.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said “these documents begin to reveal the pressure that Facebook and other social-media companies were under to alter their content-moderation policies and remove protected speech to appease the federal government, particularly the Biden White House.”
“While these documents are jarring, they are just the beginning of the story,” Jordan continued. “We expect Facebook to continue to produce documents, and if not, contempt remains on the table.”
Many Democrats have accused the Republican-led investigation of bullying platforms like Facebook (Meta) into loosening its content-moderation policies.
They also blame Trump, without any evidence, claiming that he participates in a similar manner as the Biden administration, tampering with social media companies’ policies.
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