White House request to Facebook for content moderation raises concerns

August 4, 2023

The Biden administration reportedly requested Facebook to adjust its algorithm to prioritize mainstream news over conservative outlets, raising concerns about potential infringement on free speech.

This revelation comes from meeting notes between White House digital director Rob Flaherty and Facebook executives in early 2021, obtained by Just The News. The discussions allegedly centered around health-related topics, but also touched on the promotion of certain news sources over others.

White House Interactions with Facebook

The documents, recently delivered under subpoena to the House Judiciary Committee, suggest that the White House was actively interacting with Facebook.

The aim was to encourage more Americans to fall in line during the pandemic by moderating content in a certain way. This interaction raises questions about the potential influence of the government on a private company's content moderation policies.

In one meeting, Flaherty reportedly asked Facebook if it could promote the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal over the Daily Wire and Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren.

This request came amidst discussions about vaccine hesitancy and what Facebook was doing to address it.

Reaction from targeted outlets

Both Lahren and The Daily Wire have responded to these revelations. Lahren, who had publicly announced her choice to avoid the jab, expressed her disturbance at the lengths the Biden administration would go to silence her.

Ben Shapiro, editor emeritus at The Daily Wire, called the White House's pressure on Facebook a "disgusting, and predictable First Amendment violation."

Legal implications and potential lawsuits

The situation has drawn attention from constitutional law professors, who have denounced the White House's actions as potential infringements on free speech.

Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, suggested that The Daily Wire and Lahren could, and perhaps should, sue the federal government and Facebook over the alleged censorship.

While it's typically difficult to hold private companies accountable for First Amendment violations, an exception exists when a private entity is acting "under color of law." In this case, if the government is found to have asked Facebook to censor speech, both entities could potentially be sued.

Implications for free speech

This incident raises serious questions about the influence of the government on private companies' content moderation policies.

It also brings to light the potential threats to free speech when such influence is exerted. The situation is a reminder of the delicate balance between combating misinformation and upholding the principles of free speech.

In conclusion, this story brings to light several key points:

  • The Biden administration reportedly requested Facebook to adjust its algorithm to prioritize mainstream news over conservative outlets.
  • The discussions allegedly centered around combating COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
  • The Daily Wire and Tomi Lahren, who were targeted in the discussions, have responded strongly against these actions.
  • Constitutional law professors have denounced White House actions as potential infringements on free speech.
  • The incident raises serious questions about the influence of government on private companies' content moderation policies.

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