Recent revelations indicate that the Biden administration exerted influence on Facebook to address skepticism regarding the COVID vaccine, potentially involving a compromise in response to a clash between Facebook and the European Union.
This development comes from a comprehensive review of internal documents known as the Facebook Files, obtained by House Republicans and analyzed by the independent journalist Michael Shellenberger’s Substack newsletter, Public.
According to these documents, Facebook’s Director of Strategic Response, Rosa Birch, resisted calls to censor vaccine-skeptic content, expressing concerns that such actions would hinder open dialogue and reinforce suspicions of a cover-up.
Birch emphasized the importance of maintaining an open and safe environment for discussions related to vaccines.
Despite her evidence-based argument, the White House dismissed her perspective.
Emails from April 2021 reveal Birch’s communication with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, wherein she stated, “We are facing continued pressure from external stakeholders, including the White House and the press, to remove more COVID-19 vaccine-discouraging content.”
Similarly, Facebook’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, initially voiced reservations about the proposed censorship, highlighting potential encroachments on free expression boundaries.
However, Clegg later shifted his stance, suggesting a need to reassess relations with the White House due to the significance of the matter.
Media reports also played a role in influencing Facebook’s approach to censorship.
For instance, a New York Times story about a prominent vaccine skeptic prompted intensified efforts to limit his content’s reach.
Additionally, a July 2021 email from former White House official Andy Slavitt to Facebook discussed a tweet from NBC News reporter Ben Collins advocating for increased censorship.
The Biden administration’s reliance on Facebook for managing vaccination campaigns prompted internal discussions.
Facebook’s executive Aaron Berman expressed frustration with the administration’s narrative, calling it politically driven and lacking factual grounding.
Berman also noted the vague definition of “misinformation.”
In another email exchange, Berman criticized the administration for using Facebook as a scapegoat for its vaccination challenges, indicating that blame-shifting seemed convenient when efforts didn’t yield expected results.
The pressure Facebook experienced from the White House might have been connected to a separate issue involving Facebook’s European operations.
The tech giant faced challenges with transferring European user data to its servers in the United States.
Clegg’s request for compliance with White House demands for censorship seemed motivated by broader concerns, including ongoing negotiations with the European Union over data privacy regulations.
These events culminated in a significant fine imposed on Facebook’s parent company, Meta, by EU regulators for violating privacy regulations.
Subsequently, a “EU-US Data Privacy Framework” was announced, hinting at a potential quid pro quo arrangement between Facebook and the White House regarding censorship and cooperation with the European Union..