White House coordinating with tech giants on ‘misinformation’

Critics believe the administration's arrangement with Big Tech companies is a potential conflict of interest or worse.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki (White House/Flickr)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stepped into the ongoing battle with Big Tech this week.

During the Thursday press briefing, Psaki said “we’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation” regarding COVID-19 messaging.

In a report also released Thursday, the U.S. surgeon general called on FAAMG to crack down on what it deems COVID-19 misinformation.

Vivek Murthy told reporters that social media misinformation “poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health” and consequences should occur for Americans who engage in it.

“Given as Dr. Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue of misinformation specifically on the pandemic,” Psaki added. “In terms of actions, that we have taken or we’re working to take, I should say, from the federal government, we’ve increased disinformation research and tracking. Within the Surgeon General’s Office, we’re flagging posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”

Psaki confirmed Friday that the White House is “in regular touch” with Big Tech regarding information censorship. She then tangled with Fox News’ Peter Doocy over the administration spying on certain individuals’ social media. The press secretary claimed “our biggest concern is the number of people who are dying around the country because they’re getting misinformation that is leading them to not take a vaccine.”

“We are regularly making sure social media platforms are aware of the latest narratives, dangerous to public health, that we and many other Americans are seeing across all of social and traditional media,” said Psaki, who believes that “you shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others for providing misinformation.”

When asked Friday what message he has for social media platforms, President Joe Biden said: “They’re killing people.”

There has been growing anger among conservatives over social media companies’ efforts to suppress content they don’t like, often under the guise of “spreading misinformation.”

And double standards abound.

Former President Donald Trump, for instance, was banned from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan. 6 riots, and has since sued the Silicon Valley giants.

Twitter, however, continues to permit Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to incite violence on their platform, including cheering Hamas firing rockets at Israeli citizens in May.

“It’s important to take faster action against harmful posts,” Psaki continued. “As you all know, information travels quite quickly on social media platforms. Sometimes it’s not accurate, and Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove harmful, violative posts. Posts that would be within their policies for removal often remain up for days. That’s too long. The information spreads too quickly.”

Officials worry coronavirus misinformation can inhibit the U.S. response to the pandemic and prevent some Americans from getting a vaccine.

“As Surgeon General, my job is to help people stay safe and healthy, and without limiting the spread of health misinformation, American lives are at risk. From the tech and social media companies who must do more to address the spread on their platforms, to all of us identifying and avoiding sharing misinformation, tackling this challenge will require an all-of-society approach, but it is critical for the long-term health of our nation,” Murthy claimed.

“Health misinformation has led people to resist wearing masks in high-risk settings. It’s led them to turn down proven treatments and to choose not to get vaccinated. This has led to avoidable illnesses and death. Simply put, health misinformation has cost us lives,” he continued.

Critics believe the administration’s arrangement with Big Tech companies is a potential conflict of interest or worse.

“It’s scary to have the White House compiling lists of organizations, then going to a private company — that is a monopoly, Facebook — and saying you need to censor what private users can and cannot say,” Sen. Josh Hawley explained Thursday evening on Fox News. “If they’re openly coordinating with the federal government, they’re operating as a public utility. Their status as independent companies looks more in danger. They’re acting like an arm of the government.”


A.J. Kaufman

A.J. Kaufman is an Alpha News columnist. His work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Indianapolis Star, Israel National News, Orange County Register, St. Cloud Times, Star-Tribune, and across AIM Media Midwest and the Internet. Kaufman previously worked as a school teacher and military historian.