The White House press secretary Jen Psaki has made a startling admission at a press briefing on Thursday that the US government is actively coordinating with Facebook to flag the posts of United States citizens for being “problematic” and containing COVID-19 “misinformation.”
The admission has raised First Amendment free speech rights implications, particularly as previous lawsuits that have accused Facebook and the government of working together to censor online content have been dismissed due to a judge finding “lack of evidence.”
Psaki's admission could open the doors to finding that evidence.
“Can you talk a little bit more about this request for tech companies to be more aggressive in policing misinformation? Has the administration been in touch with any of these companies? And are there any actions that the Federal Government can take to ensure their cooperation? Because we've seen from the start, there's not a lot of action on some of these platforms,” Psaki was asked.
“Well, first, we are in regular touch with the social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 Team,” Psaki announced. “Given as Dr. Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue of misinformation specifically on the pandemic. In terms of actions that we have taken or we're working to take, I should say, from the Federal Government, we've increased disinformation research and tracking. Within the Surgeon General's Office, we are flagging posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.
Paski continued: “It's important to take faster action against harmful posts. As you all know, information travels quite quickly on social media platforms. Sometimes it's not accurate, and Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove harmful violative posts. Posts that would be within their policies for removal often remain up for days. That's too long. The information spreads too quickly.
Psaki's admission follow's the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, announcing a campaign earlier today that called on tech companies and several other stakeholders to “confront health misinformation.”
Tech giant Twitter swiftly responded to the campaign by tweeting: “We agree, @Surgeon_General. Combating health misinformation requires a whole-of-society approach.”
It also follows other lawsuits uncovering close partnerships between Democrats and Twitter where they flag alleged misinformation to Twitter and Twitter swiftly takes it down.
Not only is there mounting evidence of the tech giants, public officials, and now the Federal Government collaborating to flag anything that they deem to be misinformation and pressuring Facebook to take it down but, at the same time, the Federal Government is also placing mounting legal pressure on Facebook by suing it for alleged illegal monopolization. This creates an apparent threat for Facebook if it doesn't comply with government demands and could make the First Amendment violation, intimidation, and coercion argument stronger.
Pressuring Facebook to censor content is just one-half of this campaign from the Biden administration. Psaki also admitted that The White House is demanding that Facebook push the government's preferred sources of “quality information” via the newsfeed and its algorithms.
“Facebook has repeatedly shown that they have the leverage to promote quality information,” Psaki said. “We've seen them effectively do this in their algorithm over low-quality information, and they've chosen not to use it in this case and that's certainly an area that would have an impact. So these are certainly the proposals. We engage with them regularly and they certainly understand what our asks are.”