WASHINGTON, D.C. — Emails from federal government officials, obtained by two Republican state attorneys general, show pressure from top-ranking Biden officials on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to censor information on COVID-19.
The emails, obtained in a federal lawsuit filed by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, provide details on coordination on how to tackle COVID-19 information shared by users on the social platforms.
Last July, the White House digital director of COVID-19 response, Clarke Humphrey, asked Instagram to take down a parody account of Dr. Fauci. "Any way we can get this pulled down?" wrote Humphrey in an email. "It is not actually one of ours." Within one minute, an employee at Instagram replied, "Yep, on it!"
TAKING ORDERS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
The newly discovered communications raise questions on whether social media fact-checkers appropriately censored opposing views – specifically among the nation's scientific community – or if they merely followed orders from the White House.
“The discovery provided so far demonstrates that this censorship enterprise is extremely broad,” Landry and Schmitt wrote in a joint statement. The discovery has identified communications between 45 federal officials and social media executives on what information to censor.
An email from last April details a briefing between Biden's staff and Twitter on “vaccine misinfo.” Another email from a Facebook official proposes a monthly misinfo/debunking meeting between the social media giant and a CDC official. The casual tone of the emails indicates a familiarity between social media employees and federal officials.
In the summer of 2021, President Joe Biden said that Facebook was “killing people” by not removing misinformation on the platform related to COVID-19. Subsequently, a Meta executive sent an email to Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to collaborate on “what the White House expects from us on misinformation going forward.”
Later that week, the same Meta executive discussed changing their company policies and removing several objectionable Facebook pages, accounts, and groups involved in what the Biden Administration identified as misinformation.
Multiple emails detail how Facebook would not move forward on censorship until they received input from the Biden administration’s “debunking team.”
In the federal lawsuit, senior government officials in the Executive Branch are accused of open collusion with social media companies to suppress viewpoints, content, and speakers who they disfavored.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department refused to produce communications between social media and federal government officials claiming “executive privilege.” But the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled in favor of the petition and compelled the federal government to release the emails.
"Confirming that this is the most dangerously anti-free speech administration in American history AND that Facebook (or Meta or whatever) is nothing but an appendage of the deep state,” said Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on his Twitter account.
The Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act, a Republican-sponsored bill in the U.S. House, proposes prohibiting federal bureaucrats from conspiring with private social media companies to censor free speech.