January 17, 2023 from The DisInformation Chronicle

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7 minute read

Late 2021, I wrote a bombshell BMJ investigation that found data integrity problems in Pfizer’s COVID-19 clinical trial, based on internal documents provided by an American whistleblower. As the investigation took off on social media, Facebook began censoring it, leading to a back and forth between The BMJ and Facebook, as well as coverage in multiple outlets over “fact checkers” who check narratives—not facts.

New emails released during litigation against the Biden administration now explain Facebook’s move to target The BMJ. Months prior to The BMJ’s investigation, a Facebook employee emailed White House officials Andy Slavitt and Rob Flaherty, detailing how the social media giant would reduce virality of vaccine stories that might discourage the administration’s vaccine policies even if they contained “true content.”

“As you know, in addition to removing vaccine misinformation, we have been focused on reducing virality of content discouraging vaccines that does not contain actionable misinformation,” reads the Facebook email to White House officials Slavitt and Flaherty. “This is often-true content….”

Facebook’s new policy came after the White House had pressured them to control information that might harm Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine policy. Months after agreeing to aid the administration, Facebook’s fact checker faulted The BMJ for “missing context” although they found no factual errors.

Pushing Facebook to attack the press violates the free press clause of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

“The government can’t get around the First Amendment by coercing, pressuring, or cajoling private companies to censor Americans for expressing views of which the government disapproves,” emailed Jenin Younes, litigation counsel at New Civil Liberties Alliance, who is suing the federal government along with the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana. “But Rob Flaherty’s emails demonstrate that the Biden administration intentionally sought to suppress true content that it believed threatened the administration’s agenda.”

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