The House Judiciary Committee received a host of subpoenaed materials documenting the correspondence between the White House and Facebook. Among these materials were memos that showed the White House was pressuring the social media to change their algorithms to promote media outlets that the White House approved at the explicit expense of outlets that the White House disapproved of. The ostensible reason for this request was to discourage the spread of misinformation.
One memo dated April 14, 2021, shows White House digital director Rob Flaherty requesting that Facebook “change the algorithm so that people were more likely to see NYT, WSJ, any authoritative news source over Daily Wire, Tomi Lahren, polarizing people. You wouldn’t have a mechanism to check the material impact?”
Mr. Flaherty prefaced his request by saying, “We have to explain to President, Ron, people, why there is misinfo on the internet, bigger problem than FB…Where issues are, what interventions are, how well they are working, for products, want to engage in things that you know to be effective. I don’t even care about specific methodology, you have better, richer data than we’ll ever have…What are the things driving [COVID-19 vaccine] hesitancy on your platform? What is it? How big is the problem? When you are intervening, how are you measuring success?”
The meeting notes reveal that Flaherty mentioned that “candidly there is not a lot of trust towards FB” and that the White House wanted to know if they could rely on the platform to find “things that are effective that you aren’t doing” to discourage vaccine hesitancy.
A Facebook employee is cited in the notes as responding, “In terms of interventions, know that there are groups that are hot spots – mandatory post approvals – admins have to approve posts. If violating content is approved, give the group a strike. I’m uncovering new examples on comments – public figures on comments might be contributing more. Tomi Lahren posted on how she’s not getting the vaccine. Even with comment reduction, still struggling … if we reduce comments from public figures, Tomi Lahren makes a post.”
Tomi Lahren responded to these revelations that the White House was particularly interested in censoring her. “The fact that I’ve been living rent-free in Biden’s head is flattering…But the fact his team would go to such great lengths to silence me for simply saying I won’t personally get the COVID vaccine is disturbing to say the least. Free speech is on its last leg under Joe Biden,” declared Lahren.
Ben Shapiro also commented about this development that “[t]he Biden White House’s pressure on Facebook to target Daily Wire for traffic reduction is an obvious, disgusting, and predictable First Amendment violation…Government action is still government action even when the government is cudgeling private corporations to do the dirty work of censorship. We sued the Biden administration to stop the OSHA vaccine mandate, and we’re not afraid of taking them to court again to preserve free speech rights. We’re looking into all available remedies as we speak.”