White House flagged Facebook for censorship hesitancy

White House flagged Facebook for censorship hesitancy

Emails uncovered in a lawsuit show Biden administration officials demanding Facebook censor a Tucker Carlson news segment about the controversial Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine (pictured above). The shot was pulled due to safety concerns but Facebook censored the video anyway after pressure to do so. 

White House flagged Facebook for censorship hesitancy

The discovery process in a federal lawsuit has unveiled how Facebook was shamed and bullied by the Biden administration to censor a Fox News segment about the COVID-19 vaccine, even though the segment about the controversial Johnson & Johnson shot was based in truth and supported by facts.

The current lawsuit, brought by Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri, has revealed email correspondence from 2021 that was triggered by a Tucker Carlson segment that was posted online and went viral. The video’s popularity upset the White House, and the now-public emails show how two White House officials requested Facebook hide it from view even after Facebook pointed out the Johnson & Johnson shot was under scrutiny.

Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s attorney general, said in a statement “disturbing collusion between Big Tech and Big Government” has been revealed thanks to the lawsuit that is attempting to uncover the federal government’s secretive effort to censor First Amendment-protected speech.  

Landry, Jeff (Louisiana AG) Landry

The lawsuit, filed in the District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, is State of Missouri and State of Louisiana v. Joseph R. Biden.  

 “Today’s reveal,” Landry said, “is yet another example of the ongoing coercive efforts by the White House to pressure social media companies into censoring American citizens.”

It appears that coercion worked.

According to a National Review story, Facebook voluntarily demoted the Carlson video and other vaccine-related content after the social media site was intimidated into taking action by two White House officials: Rob Flaherty, the White House director of digital media; and Andy Slavitt, the now-former COVID-19 senior advisor in the White House.

In a blistering email about promoting “vaccine hesitancy,” Flaherty accused Facebook of indirectly increasing “skepticism” about the 2020 election. He also accused the social media giant of being complicit in the January 20 “insurrection” because it was plotted and planned by Facebook users.

“I want some assurances, based in data,” Flaherty wrote, “that you are not doing the same thing again here.”

“Understood,” a Facebook official replied.

In an April 14 exchange with Slavitt, a Facebook official assured him the Carlson video was not the “most viewed” vaccine post, which was a reference to an earlier accusation from Slavitt. The responding email went on to bravely point out the Carlson video didn’t qualify for removal under Facebook policy.

“Following the government’s decision yesterday,” that unnamed official told Slavitt, “we are allowing claims that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine causes blood clots, but we still do not allow categorical claims that it or other vaccines are unsafe or ineffective.”

Houck, Curtis (MRC) Houck

At the time of that email exchange, the Johnson & Johnson shot was under a safety review by the FDA and by the CDC for blood-clotting side effects. That so-called “pause” was lifted a week later, on April 23, but its use was limited to people 18 and older, the National Review story points out. 

Despite those facts, the Facebook official assured Slavitt the Carlson video would be labeled with a pointer to “authoritative COVID information.” The video would also be demoted on the platform, too.

Other email exchanges show a similar pattern: White House officials accused Facebook of failing to punish controversial posts, and Facebook obediently made more effort to use its online tools to hide and punish those posts. The most bullying tactic of all might have been an email alerting Facebook of a White House memo, circulating among staff, that suggested the social media site was playing a "major role" in spreading "misinformation" about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Instead of finally drawing a line on the bullying tactics, Facebook repeatedly described its efforts to capitulate to the Biden administration, which meant hiding information from public view to please the government.  

Even when a Facebook executive described how it was promoting "vaccine acceptance," Flaherty complained that "anti-vaccine" Facebook pages could be found in the search engine. Those pages were then removed.

Reacting to the newly-uncovered email exchange, Curtis Houck of Media Research Center says the coercive Biden administration is being pulled into the public light for all to see.

In the modern equivalent of the public square, Houck says, a powerful corporation was “ground down into submission” by the federal government.