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URGENT: White House efforts to censor Covid vaccine skeptics in 2021 were even worse than previously known
Facebook's own executives believed the company had been forced to remove posts it shouldn't have. At the heart of these unconstitutional efforts: one Andrew M. Slavitt.
By July 2021, Biden Administration pressure to censor Covid vaccine skeptics had grown so harsh Facebook executives believed the administration wanted the company to remove any “content that provides any negative information on or opinions about the vaccine.”
And Facebook’s executives admitted internally that intimidation from the White House had caused the company to censor posts that it should have allowed.
“We were under pressure from the administration,” a Facebook employee emailed to Nick Clegg, a senior company executive, after he asked why the company had censored the Covid lab leak theory. “We shouldn’t have done it.”
(PLEASE HELP ME FIGHT CENSORSHIP! SUPPORT BERENSON V. BIDEN WITH A SUBSCRIPTION TO UNREPORTED TRUTHS!)
The Facebook documents reveal a White House completely unconcerned with the First Amendment implications of its censorship efforts.
For months, senior White House officials, led by Andy Slavitt, had demanded that the company remove posts they did not like, the emails show. The pressure only increased in July and August 2021, as the mRNA jabs failed, Delta Covid infections accelerated, and the White House began to consider very divisive vaccine mandates.
The documents were released Thursday and Friday by the Congressional committee investigating government efforts to censor social media.
Facebook had been slow to turn over the documents but did so after committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) threatened to hold Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in contempt of Congress. Jordan then posted them on Twitter in two threads Thursday and Friday.
(Don’t you dare joke about the Covid vaccines! The White House told us the First Amendment doesn’t cover Covid vaccine jokes, and they would know.)
The files also show that despite their concerns about the pressure they faced to censor truthful information, Facebook executives wanted to keep the White House happy in the summer of 2021.
Nick Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs (and a former British deputy prime minister), emailed other executives that Sheryl Sandberg - at the time Facebook’s chief operating officer - wanted the company “to show that we are trying to be responsive to the WH.”
If the company did not bend, it faced “protracted and increasing animosity” with the White House at a time when it had “bigger fish to fry with the Administration,” Clegg wrote. “That doesn’t seem a great place for us to be.”
In other words, a senior Facebook executive said the company might give into unconstitutional censorship demands because the federal government had other levers on it. Ultimately, Facebook did knuckle to the pressure and significantly increased its censorship and suppression of vaccine-skeptical posts.
(Nice little company we’ve got here. Be a shame if anything happened to it. Let’s figure out how to make the big guy happy.)
Jordan referred to the documents as the “Facebook Files,” a reference to the “Twitter Files” - Elon Musk’s voluntary partial opening of Twitter’s internal documents to a handful of journalists.
But the new documents are arguably more significant than anything in the Twitter Files, because they include discussions from Facebook’s top officials about the White House censorship efforts.
Musk has not made similar documents from Twitter’s senior management public, although they exist. Twitter’s own lawyers referred to them in August 2022 as part of the settlement of Berenson v. Twitter, my lawsuit against Twitter for its ban of me in August 2021.
Will Musk - who promised when he bought Twitter to be transparent about the company’s response to government censorship - now fully open Twitter’s files to reveal the pressures its top executives faced?