Did Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Anthony Fauci have any discussions about COVID-related discourse before the social media platform’s crackdown? The House Republicans are curious.
Following the release of an email exchange between the two in the Fauci email dump last week, Kentucky Rep. James Comer and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan — the ranking Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the House Judiciary Committee, respectively — sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday demanding that he hand over any communications the company has had with Fauci.
“In light of Facebook’s subsequent censorship of certain COVID-19 content — including content about the pandemic’s origin,” the letter continued, “these communications with Dr. Fauci raise the possibility that the federal government induced Facebook to censor certain speech in violation of the First Amendment.”
“All records and conversations between or among Facebook workers referring or pertaining to any request by any US government official to restrict or regulate anything linked to COVID-19,” Comer and Jordan demanded.
The letter arrived in the midst of a swift two-pronged barrage of bad press for the Menlo Park, California-based software firm in relation to COVID-19. Comer and Jordan want to know if they can trust one other.
Not the usual catchall b(5) deliberative process here.. but a less common b(4) “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential” on Zuck’s offer to Fauci.
Was this the offer to censor wrongthink??? pic.twitter.com/UyoC1WSES8
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) June 2, 2021
Then there were the emails between Zuckerberg and Fauci, which were released days later after a Freedom of Information Act request yielded them:
However, as Comer and Jordan pointed out, the platform was censoring more than just claims that COVID-19 was man-made or came from a lab leak.
While vaccine skepticism is the censorship flavor of the moment — and, let’s face it, it’ll get you banned from practically every prominent social media platform — the letter observed that Facebook was actively censoring anti-lockdown protests and banning DIY mask firms early in the pandemic.
And, while Facebook was deciding which voices to silence, it was also debating which voices to raise the volume on.
“While filtering and restricting these types of speech, Facebook boosted sources like the World Health Organization – despite the fact that such organizations have previously proved to be compromised and unreliable,” the GOP legislators wrote.
“Facebook’s censorship judgments were not made in a vacuum, and there are signs that specific government policies and viewpoints influenced Facebook’s content-moderation judgments on COVID-19. The federal government appears to have communicated with Facebook extensively on COVID-19.
“You personally emailed Dr. Fauci to recruit him in Facebook’s ‘Coronavirus Information Hub,’ encouraging him to submit a video “because people trust and want to hear from professionals rather than simply a bunch of agencies and political figures,” according to the article.
“It also appears that you discussed some of Facebook’s proprietary trade or commercial secrets with Dr. Fauci, as parts of your email discussion with Dr. Fauci were redacted when made public.”
The timeliness of Facebook’s move to stop censoring speech on COVID-19’s origins was also questioned by Comer and Jordan.