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Facebook's Secretive Stance on Government Censorship Unveiled

Jesse Saunders

2 Aug 2023

The Shocking 'Facebook Unveilings' Expose a Startling Conspiracy of Censorship, Unraveling a Web of Government Control Over Online Discourse

The recent disclosure of the "Facebook Files" has exposed Facebook's long-held refusal to share its files on government censorship efforts. However, the tables turned when the House Judiciary Committee took a bold step by threatening to hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in contempt of Congress.



What emerged from the Facebook Files is a shocking revelation that confirms suspicions held by many for years. The emails uncovered a striking resemblance to a similar scenario that occurred on Twitter – the government's concerted effort to pressure tech companies into censoring critics and dissenting voices.

Executives at Facebook found themselves grappling with the overwhelming pressure from the government to censor citizens, leaving them with little room to refuse. Over at Twitter, federal officials from agencies like the FBI bombarded the platform with a deluge of demands for censorship, some officials conducting countless keyword searches on a daily basis.


In January 2020, Carlos Monje Jr., Twitter's then-director of policy and philanthropy, expressed discomfort over the FBI's intrusive tactics, noting that they were actively probing and pushing every possible avenue, even resorting to whispering to congressional staff.


The extent of the censorship efforts extended to targeting content deemed to voice "anti-Ukraine narratives," with even satirical and comedy sites falling under the government's radar for removal.



Notably, Facebook executives faced an insatiable government desire for censorship, as an April 2021 email from Nick Clegg, Facebook's president for global affairs, revealed. The email highlighted the outrage of senior Biden adviser Andy Slavitt, who demanded the removal of a humorous meme posted by a user named Timothy McComas. The meme featured Leonardo DiCaprio's character from the film "Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood" humorously pointing at a TV with a beer and cigarette in hand, with a caption related to COVID vaccines.

Slavitt's ire stemmed from the belief that such humor undermined confidence in COVID vaccines among the targeted audience.


Meanwhile, the White House relentlessly targeted those questioning the efficacy of masks, natural immunities, and the impact of pandemic measures on children. Facebook's COO, Sheryl Sandberg, acknowledged facing persistent pressure from external stakeholders, including the Biden administration, to remove posts criticizing COVID-19 vaccines.


Despite a massive censorship partnership in place, President Joe Biden took a confrontational approach, accusing Big Tech of "killing people" for not censoring citizens more aggressively. However, some of the targeted individuals have since gained recognition for raising valid objections, particularly regarding the origins of the virus.


The situation became more complex when an August 2021 email revealed Facebook's leadership seeking additional policy levers to be more aggressive against misinformation, driven by continuous criticism from the Biden administration.


Even as Facebook officials began to object to some measures, they continued to ban users. The White House's stance on vaccine-related humor became evident when one email mentioned the removal of humor linked to vaccine side effects.


The House investigation exposed a multitude of grants given to academic and private groups to blacklist and target those with opposing views, irrespective of the veracity of the information posted.


Moreover, various government agencies were actively involved in targeting citizens and groups for censorship. In one hearing, efforts by Jen Easterly, leader of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, to extend regulatory authority, were scrutinized as she sought to include "cognitive infrastructure" as part of "critical infrastructure," aiming to build "resilience to misinformation and disinformation."


The government's relentless demand for the removal of "malinformation," which is factual but taken out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate, added to concerns about the freedom of information dissemination and expression.


Jesse


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