Hot on the heels of the Twitter Files revelations of government interference in social media, another social media behemoth comes under similar scrutiny – and this time, it’s Facebook. A tranche of emails shows that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) routinely handed out “recommendations on what content to flag as false or misleading.” Still more concerning, it seems the health agency was in the business of flagging Facebook posts it determined could “cause harm.” And herein lies the rub: “Harm” appears to be anything that deviates from the dominant government narrative.
Looking The Other Way
As the world was raptly engaged in the happenings over at Twitter HQ, Reason’s Senior Editor Robby Soave hunted further afield. What he discovered was that the agency responsible for managing the coronavirus crisis had “significant input on pandemic-era policies at Meta [Facebook’s parent company].” Not only did the platform eagerly accept guidance from the CDC, but emails also show that it essentially outsourced its policy regarding what was acceptable for publishing.
Further, according to Soave, “Meta also provided the CDC with a list of new claims about vaccines and asked whether the government thought they could ‘contribute to vaccine refusals.’ The CDC determined that this label applied to all such claims. Facebook also flagged “mockery” of Dr. Anthony Fauci for attention.
Censorship for Public Policy
While a number of COVID-related claims already fell under Facebook’s “violation” of terms policy, others were handed off to the CDC to make a final determination. Site moderators repeatedly thanked the health agency for its assistance in “debunking.”
“Meta gave the CDC de facto power to police COVID misinfo on the platforms; the CDC took the position that essentially any erroneous claim could contribute to vaccine hesitancy and cause social harm. This was a recipe for vast silencing, at the feds’ implicit behest.”
The result of this policy outsourcing led to bans, suspensions and blockings of accounts that criticized government policy on lockdowns and survival rates – the latter now proven accurate. And while some of the claims made on the platform ranged from the erroneous to the bizarre, the fact that a government agency with a vested interest in pushing specific narratives was awarded the status of final arbiter of the acceptable truth appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.
In late 2020 – the height of the pandemic – a Pew Research study found that 36% of Americans regularly got their news from Facebook. This platform was the top dog in terms of social media, with YouTube coming in second at 23% and Twitter a distant third at just 15%. Essentially, this means that at least a third of all Americans were receiving “sanitized” news that had been filtered by a government agency.
When coupled with the recent Twitter Files releases, this indicates that fully half of the US population (51%) were on the receiving end of a government-backed propaganda campaign. That not a single legacy media outlet has thus far covered Mr. Soave’s reporting suggests that this figure may be even higher.
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