Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) released the third edition of the Facebook Files on X (nee Twitter), revealing how far the Biden administration was willing to go to “control true speech on Facebook.” The first and second editions highlighted how perturbed all the president’s men and women were over a meme and a joke on the social media titan. What does part three showcase?
The Facebook Files – Part Three
As President Joe Biden pushed the COVID-19 vaccine, the White House attempted to control the narrative. While the administration was successful in securing what information the mainstream media showcased on television and in newspapers, it was harder to contain social media. This prompted Biden to accuse Facebook and its industry rivals of “killing people” because they did not censor COVID-related content, much of which the establishment frowned upon.
According to subpoenaed internal notes inside the Facebook Files, corporate executives met with administration officials. A prominent name was Rob Flaherty, the president’s then-director of digital strategy. In a series of poorly written and often barely coherent messages, Flaherty continually pressured the website to justify its content management decisions “because we have to explain to President, Ron [Klain], people, why there is misinfo on the internet, bigger problem than FB.”
In a March 2021 exchange, Flaherty wondered if the social network employed enough measures to reduce traffic from a publication like the New York Post. “I’m curious – NY Post churning out articles every day about people dying. What is supposed to happen to that from Policy perspective. Does that article get a reduction, labels?”
The Biden official went as far as demanding that Facebook kick users off the website. “My question on inform – intellectually my bias is to kick people off. Inform, intellectually, maybe path of most impact.” The appetite for censoring different viewpoints expanded, and Flaherty informed Facebook that his “dream” was for the website to “play ball” and collaborate with the administration on censorship. A proposed tactic in April 2021 was to alter the Facebook algorithm to favor certain publications over others. “If you were to change, the algorithm so that people were more likely to see NYT, WSJ, any authoritative news source over Daily Wire, Tomi Lahren, polarizing people,” he said. “You wouldn’t have a mechanism to check the material impact?”
The company responded, with one employee noting that Facebook might not be able to “remove” content, but “at least we need to contain it” by demoting the posts. Here is what the individual stated:
“And we attack virality aspect through feed demotions. We remove content that can lead to imminent physical harm. For content that doesn’t meet that threshold, we instituted borderline demotions. For example, someone sharing negative side effect posts. Similarly, posts questioning whether you should get a vaccine under a mandate, whether it’s government overreach. We demote those. That’s not false information, but it leads to a vaccine negative environment. When it comes to looking at COVID misinformation, it’s a different approach. What we normally do is just remove or leave to fact checkers. Here, we introduced a middle ground.”
Two months later, Flaherty intensified the pressure for additional content control and moderation on what he deemed “bad content.” Facebook caved to the pressure and confirmed that it decreased the content of specific posts, “even if the posts didn’t violate the company’s terms and contained TRUE information,” Rep. Jordan noted.
In addition, Courtney Rowe, President Biden’s head of strategic communications and public engagement for the COVID-19 response, made fun of Americans’ ability to determine whether something was true or not. “How do we work with you all to push back on it. If someone in rural Arkansas sees something on FB, it’s the truth,” she said.
To Be Continued
Before the latest Facebook Files updates, Fox Business viewed internal company communications that revealed the company and White House officials were worried that the public might have a “big brother feel,” so the website would “have to be careful in how we approach.” Considering the extreme efforts to peddle one specific side of the discussion and censor other views, their cautious behavior might not have been successful. Rep. Jordan stated on X that “more evidence of the censorship-industrial complex” was coming soon, so stay tuned to what other strategies were utilized to halt speech on the platform.
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