Critics roundly condemned the White House after press secretary Jen Psaki revealed the Biden administration is working with Facebook to flag “problematic” posts that “spread disinformation” on COVID-19.
On Thursday, Psaki was asked a question regarding the Biden administration’s request for tech companies to be more “aggressive” when policing what they referred to as “misinformation.” Psaki revealed that the White House is “in regular touch with social media platforms” to handle it.
“We are in regular touch with the social media platforms and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff and also members of our COVID-19 team — given, as Dr. Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue, of misinformation, specifically on the pandemic,” Psaki explained.
While referencing the team’s actions, Psaki also revealed that they are “flagging” posts on Facebook as part of their efforts.
“Within the Surgeon General’s Office, we’re flagging posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” Psaki said. “We’re working with doctors and medical professionals to connect medical experts with people, 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 Corps to get factual information into the hands of local messengers.”
Psaki’s comments were met with fierce pushback online with some calling the actions as infringing on the First Amendment.
“Psaki says the White House has been flagging ‘problematic posts’ on Facebook they believe are misinformation about Wuhan coronavirus. Reminder: Fauci worked with Facebook to ban the lab leak theory, which is factual, for more than a year,” Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich tweeted.
Dan Gainor, of Media Research Center, said people being anti-vaccine is part of free speech and that Psaki is “against freedom.”
Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote a lengthy Twitter thread condemning the revelation from Psaki.
“If you don’t find it deeply disturbing that the White House is ‘flagging’ internet content that they deem ‘problematic’ to their Facebook allies for removal, then you are definitionally [sic] an authoritarian. No other information is needed about you to know that,” he wrote.
Psaki’s comments follow a recent report from Politico which detailed the Biden administration’s plans to battle COVID-19 misinformation. The methods in the report included “directly calling out social media platforms and conservative news shows that promote such tactics” as well as addressing SMS carriers and text messages.
“Biden allied groups, including the Democratic National Committee, are also planning to engage fact-checkers more aggressively and work with SMS carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines that is sent over social media and text messages,” Politico reported.
Later, Psaki defended the Biden administration’s actions stating that Facebook needed to “move more quickly” to handle “harmful” posts.
“It’s important to take faster action against harmful posts. As you all know, information travels quite quickly on social media platforms. Sometimes it’s not accurate, and Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove harmful violative posts. Posts that would be within their policies for removal often remain up for days. That’s too long. The information spreads too quickly,” she said.