White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dropped yet another First Amendment bomb during a Q&A with the press. When asked by a reporter if the administration had been in touch with social media companies or done anything to ensure these platforms take seriously the so-called misinformation being spread regarding the pandemic, Psaki explained that not only are members of the team in regular contact, but they’re even flagging “problematic posts” for Facebook. Does this mean social media censorship gets the White House seal of approval? It sure seems so – but does that violate the First Amendment?
Biden’s Bizarro World
“Can you talk a little 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 the federal government can take to ensure their cooperation?” a reporter asked, “because, as we’ve seen from the start, there’s not a lot of action on some of these platforms.”
While few if any in America would be surprised to learn that the establishment media has relegated itself to little more than the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party, that a member of the press would directly request federal overreach in suppressing the First Amendment was a shock in itself.
If that didn’t cue the indigestion, Psaki’s response likely will:
“Sure. Well, first we are in regular touch with these social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team. Given, as [Surgeon General] Dr. [Vivek] Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue of misinformation, specifically on the pandemic. In terms of actions, Alex, 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’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.
“We’re working with doctors and medical professionals to connect medical experts who are popular with their audiences with accurate information and boost trusted content. So, we’re helping get trusted content out there. We also created the COVID Community Court to get factual information into the hands of local messengers, and we’re also investing, as you all have seen, in the president’s, the vice president’s, and in Dr. [Anthony] Fauci’s time in meeting with influencers who also have large reaches to a lot of these target audiences who can spread and share accurate information.”
The New Ministry of Truth
The main takeaway here is twofold. First, the federal government is already working to get corporations, free from the constraints of the Bill of Rights, to censor Americans. To this end, “problematic posts” on Facebook are being flagged, sending the clear message: “This post shouldn’t be seen.” Second, the administration is cranking out content to be spread through “influencers” far and wide, and has even gone so far as to create a “COVID Community Court” to determine truth – Ministry of Truth style, perhaps? These third-party distributors don’t simply expand the reach of the new arbiters of truth; they also act as a degree of separation, removing some of the stench of authoritarian propaganda from the information itself for many who trust these influencers more than the government.
Finessing the First
Spinning anything that goes against the leftist narrative as a public health threat is a dangerous but clever tactic, and this isn’t the first time Democrats have used it. Just look at Biden’s “Plan to End Our Gun Violence Epidemic.” Still, it would be a tough sell to pull off actual government censorship of the press or social media using this excuse. Far better to simply give friendly platforms and influencers the information you want them to either suppress or spread and let them act as they will. The White House doesn’t have to coerce or cajole Facebook to censor posts flagged by administration staff as “medical misinformation” – and that’s the whole point.
Just like the New York Democrats who hope to stop Chick-fil-A from opening locations along I-90 or the two representatives, Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA), who sent letters on congressional letterhead to a dozen television providers in opposition to conservative news outlets, this is another case of Democrats finessing the First so that no technical violation is necessary.
With both news and social media platforms so willing to abridge the “freedom of speech, or of the press,” themselves, the state can deny any abuse of liberty and the Constitution. That is, unless and until the courts rule otherwise.
Read more from James Fite.