Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and several GOP colleagues are demanding information from the Biden administration regarding the admission that the White House is working with big tech companies to “flag” posts by American citizens as disinformation.
Johnson called the administration’s involvement in the effort “a dangerous assault on freedom of speech.”
Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, said that administration officials are cooperating and coordinating with big tech and social media companies.
“We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” she said.
Psaki also indicated that the U.S. surgeon general’s office had amped up its tracking of health “disinformation.”
The press secretary explained that the Biden administration is working with medical experts and doctors to target false information, mainly about COVID-19.
Social media’ flagging’
The Biden administration’s admission that it participates in tracking social media posts drew criticism from First Amendment supporters and lawmakers.
“It is outrageous that Biden administration is coordinating with Big Tech to infringe on American citizens’ First Amendment freedoms. This is a dangerous assault on freedom of speech and Big Tech, the mainstream media and the Administration have no credibility in determining what is and isn’t misinformation,” said Senator Johnson.
“Big Tech has not become Big Brother. It’s the Big Brother arm of big government, and it should concern and frighten every American,” Johnson emphasized.
In response, nine senators sent a letter to President Biden expressing “deep concern” with the move to flag posts on social media.
Senators Johnson, Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and six other GOP Senate members joined together to send the message.
“We consider any efforts by the government to collude with social media in this manner to be a dangerous assault on Americans’ First Amendment right of freedom of speech,” the senators wrote.
“We want to reiterate that the Administration should halt any actions it has or is currently undertaking to censor Americans’ speech. Further, Congress and the American public must know how the Administration is carrying out this ‘flagging’ of American citizens’ speech.”
The letter laid out a series of information requests for the administration to supply to Congress by August 9.
These included “the name, employing agency or office, and the job title of each individual in the executive branch carrying out ‘disinformation’ research and tracking of social media platforms.”
The senators also asked for all correspondence between social media companies and the Administration, how taxpayer dollars have been spent on reducing the “disinformation,” and a list of all social media posts the Administration determined should be flagged and the justification.
Facebook told users earlier this year that it had more than 80 independent fact-checkers that review content to combat COVID-19 misinformation.
However, according to Psaki, Facebook and other big tech efforts to regulate information have not been enough.
Psaki’s admission set off a firestorm on social media. One Twitter user said, “I thought Facebook was a private company and had no Govt. Interference. All depends which party is in office.”
“Imagine if Trump did that,” said another.