A trio of House Republicans asked President Biden Tuesday to provide records related to communications and meetings between the executive branch and social media giants Facebook and Twitter over so-called “misinformation” on those platforms.
“We remain concerned with attempts by your administration to pressure private companies like Twitter and Facebook to censor certain speech or silence individuals with whom you disagree,” read the letter, led by House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and obtained exclusively by The Post.
The missive comes one week after a federal judge in Louisiana ordered the White House to turn over emails that press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top officials sent to social media companies.
The order from US District Judge Terry Doughty was in response to a lawsuit filed by Attorneys General Eric Schmitt of Missouri and Jeff Landry of Louisiana arguing the Biden administration colluded with Facebook and Twitter to “censor freedom of speech” on a number of topics, including the COVID-19 pandemic and elections.
“We know that administration officials and federal bureaucrats requested these companies to censor legitimate news stories and public discourse regarding the COVID-19 pandemic under the guise of combatting misinformation, disinformation, and election interference,” said the Tuesday letter, which later adds: “We write to express our continued concerns with the behavior of your administration and federal agencies, and to request documents and information regarding these reports.”
The requests outlined in the letter, which was also signed by Reps. Robert Latta (R-Ohio) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) include records of meetings between executive branch officials and Facebook and Twitter employees.
The lawmakers are also asking for “records and information” about communications concerning individual Facebook and Twitter users as well as “‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation’ content.”
The lawmakers gave Biden until Sept. 26 to turn over the requested documents, one day before Doughty’s deadline for the administration to hand in its emails in response to the lawsuit.
In a filing last month, Landry and Schmitt charged that “dozens of federal officials across at least eleven federal agencies” engaged in a “massive, sprawling federal ‘Censorship Enterprise,’” with the “intent and effect of pressuring social-media platforms to censor and suppress private speech that federal officials disfavor.”
The filing included a July 16, 2021 email from an unidentified Facebook official to Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that read in part: “I know our teams met today to better understand the scope of what the White House expects from us on misinformation going forward.”
Seven days later, on July 23, the same Facebook official proudly informed officials at the Department of Health and Human Services that the company was taking action against a group dubbed the “disinformation dozen” for their posts about COVID-19 vaccines.
“[W]e removed 17 additional Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts tied to the disinfo dozen (so a total of 39 Profiles, Pages, Groups and IG accounts deleted thus far, resulting in every member of the disinfo dozen having had at least one such entity removed),” the email read, later adding: “We also expanded the group of false claims that we remove to keep up with recent trends of misinformation that we are seeing.”
Five days after that, an email from a Facebook official to a contact at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proposes that “in addition to our weekly meetings, doing a monthly misinfo/debunking meeting, with maybe claim topics communicated a few days prior so that you can bring in the matching experts and chat casually for 30 minutes or so.”
“Yes, we would love to do that,” the CDC official answered.
The state AGs said last month they have identified at least 45 people within the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security alone who communicated with social media companies about “misinformation”.
They also claim that officials at other agencies, including the Census Bureau, the Food and Drug Administration, the FBI, the State Department, and the Treasury Department were at least aware of the “Censorship Enterprise.”
Landry and Schmitt also claimed that Facebook’s parent company Meta had admitted that at least 32 government officials, including workers at the FDA, US Election Assistance Commission and the White House had communicated with the company about content moderation — contacts that weren’t disclosed by the White House.