In a Twitter thread, Ohio Representative Jim Jordan released internal documents allegedly showing that Facebook and Instagram engaged in censorship under the pressure of the administration of US President Joe Biden. The documents, subpoenaed by the Judiciary Committee, point to a series of incidents where the social media giant purportedly altered content moderation policies and removed posts due to demands from the administration.
According to Rep. Jordan’s thread, during the first half of 2021, Facebook faced mounting pressure, both publicly and privately, from the Biden administration to crack down on what they deemed as “misinformation” on the platform.
In one April 2021 email, a Facebook employee pointed out that they were facing ongoing pressure from external stakeholders, including the White House, to remove certain posts.
Among the alarming revelations was the case of a meme that the White House allegedly wanted taken down. Despite a Facebook executive warning that removing such content would infringe on free expression rights, Senior Advisor to the president, Andy Slavitt, reportedly insisted on its removal, disregarding concerns about First Amendment implications.
Subsequent emails from Facebook executives expressed concern about the delicate relationship with the White House and the need to appease its demands. In an attempt to mend ties, Facebook prepared talking points to address why they hadn’t censored a video from Tucker Carlson, a prominent conservative commentator. The social media company reportedly demoted the video by 50%, even though it did not violate any policies, as a response to the White House’s pressure.
Public pressure also came to bear on Facebook, with Biden publicly criticizing the platform and other social media companies for not doing enough to combat alleged misinformation. Following this, Facebook admitted that it would change its policies to be more aggressive in dealing with “misinformation,” citing pressure from the Biden administration as a driving force.
The leaked documents also allegedly indicate that Facebook altered its policies under pressure from Biden’s Surgeon General, leading to the censorship of certain individuals deemed part of the “disinformation dozen.”
Rep. Jordan asserts that these internal documents are evidence of the Biden administration abusing its power to coerce Facebook into censoring Americans, thereby hindering free and open discourse on crucial public issues. The Judiciary Committee, which sought these documents, had previously threatened to hold Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in contempt for withholding them. However, the company has since agreed to cooperate with the investigation, leading the committee to hold contempt in abeyance, at least for the time being.
Fact-checking Facebook files
Despite calling off a vote to hold Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, in contempt of Congress for allegedly rejecting a subpoena, Jordan unveiled what he referred to as the “FACEBOOK FILES” on X (fka Twitter).
Among the documents, one is an April 2021 email from an anonymous Facebook employee to Zuckerberg and former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg. The email mentions external pressure, including from the White House and the media, to remove “discouraging” content about the Covid-19 vaccine. However, it does not confirm whether Meta complied with the alleged demands.
Another email from the same month is from Facebook’s president for global affairs, Nick Clegg, addressing a complaint from Slavitt. The advisor expressed outrage over a meme that was not taken down by the platform. Clegg argued that removing the post would infringe on free expression.
Jordan further claimed that Biden publicly pressured Meta in July 2021 by accusing social media platforms, including Facebook, of “killing people” through vaccine misinformation. Subsequently, Facebook’s leadership reportedly sought to devise stronger policies against Covid and vaccine misinformation.
Facebook’s Covid-19 policy aims to remove content that contributes to real-world harm. This includes prohibiting content that denies the existence of the coronavirus, guarantees the effectiveness of Covid-19 shots, or spreads claims that the vaccines are unsafe or ineffective against severe illness or death. Archives of Meta’s actions show that they removed dozens of pages, groups, and accounts violating this policy in August 2021.
According to Meta’s spokesperson, Andy Stone, the platform has provided additional documents to the House Judiciary Committee, which Jordan chairs, and has been cooperative with the committee’s information requests.
When questioned about the investigation during a press conference, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated the administration’s belief that social media companies have a critical responsibility to consider the impact of their platforms on the public’s health, safety, and security.
The House Judiciary Committee planned to vote on whether to hold Zuckerberg in contempt of Congress, but the committee decided to postpone the vote given Facebook’s apparent willingness to cooperate with the investigation, as stated by Jordan in a tweet.
In addition to Zuckerberg, other tech CEOs, including Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Amazon’s Andy Jassy, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, were also subpoenaed by the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee in February. The subpoenas were issued based on allegations of collusion with the Biden administration.
Information for this story was found via Forbes and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.