Last Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki revealed that the Biden administration will partner with Facebook and other social media platforms to surveil COVID-related posts. They plan to flag and censor people whom the administration considers to be purveyors of COVID “disinformation” or “misinformation.”
“We’ve increased disinformation research and tracking within the Surgeon General’s office,” Psaki said. “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.”
In other words, if respected epidemiologists and health professionals from Harvard Medical School, the University of Oxford, and Stanford University, such as Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, respectively, disagree with the so-called White House–approved “experts” as to whether wearing masks provides any significant safety benefits to children (it doesn’t) or whether there is a medical imperative for healthy adolescents to be vaccinated (there isn’t), then that could be grounds for them to be deplatformed or banned from sharing content on social media channels.
According to Psaki, only a handful of selected individuals whom the White House considers to be arbiters of truth or established science should be allowed to share “trusted content.” Any countervailing views that are at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or differ from the self-serving and ever-changing COVID advice of Dr. Fauci or Surgeon General Vivek Murthy must be purged and silenced, lest they spread COVID “misinformation.”
Let that sink in. Psaki is essentially stating from the podium that health experts whose medical opinion the White House disagrees with should no longer be allowed to have social media platforms for disseminating their research and expertise to the public. That dictatorial mandate from the Biden administration is what one would expect to see in authoritarian countries like China, North Korea, or Venezuela, but certainly not here in the United States, where we have something called the First Amendment.
But President Biden claimed last Friday that this crackdown is necessary because Facebook’s failure to police those who spread COVID “misinformation” was responsible for “killing people.” On Monday, after people in Biden’s inner circle likely realized that accusing the tech giant of being complicit in murder was probably not a wise idea, Biden attempted to walk back his ill-advised remarks, saying that he was only referring to a dozen bad actors who are supposedly responsible for 65 percent of “COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.”
“Facebook isn’t killing people, these 12 people are out there giving misinformation,” the president said. “Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information.” Per usual, the obsequious press did not bother following up with Biden to ask him to provide a shred of evidence that would support such an absurd claim.
So how exactly is Biden planning on monitoring those conspiracy theorist purveyors of “misinformation”? First, Psaki said the administration is requiring that Facebook and other social media outlets “measure and publicly share the impact of misinformation on their platform” and is asking them to “provide, publicly and transparently, data on the reach of … COVID vaccine misinformation. Not just engagement, but the reach of the misinformation and the audience that it’s reaching.”
Aside from raising serious questions about privacy rights, this also appears to be a clear violation of the individual’s right to free speech under the First Amendment. It is also not clear how exactly Facebook and other social media companies can even measure the “impact of misinformation” or how they can tell which posts flagged by the White House are influencing human behavior in a way that the Biden administration disapproves of.
Yet Psaki believes that this “will help us ensure we’re getting accurate information to people” and that the information will be “provided not just to researchers, but to the public so that the public knows and understands what is accurate and inaccurate.”
One wonders whether Psaki would consider flagging old COVID posts from the World Health Organization (WHO) as “misinformation,” including one on January 14, 2020, in which the organization said that “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus.” Or if old interviews from Dr. Fauci should be removed from YouTube and classified as “disinformation,” including one he gave on March 8, 2020, when he famously went on 60 Minutes and told correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook, “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks…. There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” Or what about flagging videos of then-Sen. Kamala Harris for attempting to undermine public confidence in the vaccines, including at the vice-presidential debate last October, when she said, “If the doctors tell us we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it, absolutely … But if Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I’m not taking it”?
Let’s be clear about what this is and what it is not. This is about more government control over our lives. This is an attack on our civil liberties and our right to free speech. This is an egregious example of the executive branch colluding with a private company to silence dissent and trample political opponents so that only one side has a say. This is a form of government overreach and tyranny from the Biden administration that has absolutely nothing to do with public safety or our well-being.
“Let me just note that we are not in a war or a battle with Facebook,” Psaki said on Monday. “We’re in a battle with the virus.” Actually, this is a war against nearly half the country, or the 51 percent of Americans who are not yet vaccinated, many of whom do not want to be compelled to stick a needle in their arm by unelected bureaucrats and Big Tech oligarchs who have no interest in serving the interests of the American people. And who’s to say that this censorship and suppression of voices that the White House deems dangerous will stop at COVID content? The short answer is, it won’t.
David Keltz was a speechwriter for the Administrator at the U.S. General Services Administration from 2020–21 and is the author of the new book The Campaign of His Life and Media Bias in the Trump Presidency and the Extinction of the Conservative Millennial. He previously served as a White House Intern for Vice President Mike Pence. Follow him on Twitter @david_keltz or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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