Robby Soave Profile picture
Jan 19, 2023 23 tweets 7 min read Read on X
Twitter is not the only social media site to face pressure to censor content. I obtained emails showing that the CDC had significant influence over covid moderation at Facebook and Instagram. Here’s what I found.
2. The CDC had significant input on pandemic-era policies at Meta. The CDC was consulted frequently, at times daily, receiving constant updates about which topics were trending, and giving recommendations on what content to flag as false or misleading.…
3. For instance, in May 2021, CDC officials began routinely vetting claims about COVID-19 vaccines that had appeared on Facebook. The platform left it up to the federal government to determine which assertions were accurate. Image
4. Facebook's moderator notes some of the above claims "would already be violating"—an implicit admission that the CDC's opinion on the other claims would be a deciding factor in whether the platform would restrict such content.
5. Facebook was clearly a willing participant in this process; moderators repeatedly thanked the CDC for its "help in debunking."
6. Claims vetted by the CDC included whether "COVID-19 is man-made." The CDC told Facebook that it was "theoretically possible, but extremely unlikely." Image
7. By July 2021, the CDC wasn't just evaluating which claims it thought were false, but whether they could "cause harm." Image
8. Then, in November, the FDA granted emergency authorization for children to receive Pfizer's COVID vaccine. Meta proudly informed the CDC that it would remove false claims—"i.e. the COVID vaccine is not safe for kids"—from FB and Insta.
9. Meta also provided the CDC with a list of new claims about vaccines and asked whether the government thought they could "contribute to vaccine refusals." The CDC determined that this label applied to all such claims. Image
10. Meta gave the CDC de facto power to police COVID misinfo on the platforms; the CDC took the position that essentially any erroneous claim could contribute to vaccine hesitancy and cause social harm. This was a recipe for vast silencing, at the feds’ implicit behest.
11. Meta also kept the CDC apprised of criticism of Anthony Fauci. One email warned the CDC that Facebook users were mocking Fauci for changing his mind about masking and double-masking. The CDC replied that this information was "very helpful." Image
12. The CDC was not the only arm of the federal government engaged in this work, of course: White House staffers castigated Meta for not deplatforming alleged misinformation fast enough. President Joe Biden himself accused Facebook of "killing people" in July 2021.
13. "What's at stake is the future of free speech in the technological age," @JeninYounesEsq, an attorney for @NCLAlegal, tells me. "We've never had a situation where the federal government at very high levels is coordinating or coercing social media to do its bidding..."
14. The New Civil Liberties Alliance is helping the state of Missouri sue the government over its campaign to pressure social media companies to silence dissent.
15. The theory is that the combination of direct influence and pressure from government officials, in conjunction with explicit threats from politicians, illegal violates free speech rights.
16. There is a word for government officials using the threat of punishment to extort desired behaviors from private actors. That word is: jawboning.
17. "Multiple arms of the administration delivered the jawboning effort together,"says @Will_Duffield, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute. "Each one component wouldn't rise to something legally actionable, but when taken as a whole administration push, it might."
18. I explore the legal case that the federal government’s jawboning of social media companies violates the First Amendment in my cover story for the March 2023 issue of @reason magazine. Read it here…
19. For a closer look at the emails themselves, read this article.…
20. I'm grateful to the work done by @mtaibbi, @bariweiss, @lhfang, @ShellenbergerMD, @davidzweig and others (with @elonmusk's cooperation) to uncover censorship at Twitter. It's clear the same forces were conspiring to silence dissent at Meta as well.
21. You can also watch my monologue on this subject for Rising
22. Full thing here
23. I'll also be talking about my reporting on a livestream for @reason later today. Details here:

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More from @robbysoave

Jun 9, 2023
Scoop: I found some extremely curious counting in the Southern Poverty Law Center's latest report on hate groups, which now includes the conservative org Moms for Liberty. But the issues go way beyond that one group. THREAD 1/x
For the SPLC, Moms for Liberty doesn't count as one hate group. It counts as dozens and dozens of hate groups. Each chapter is listed separately. By itself, this is leading to massive hate group inflation.…
But the problems actually go way beyond that. In 2020, the number of hate groups actually declined. The SPLC can't have that. So they added in "antigovernment extremist" groups, which were previously labeled separately.
Read 8 tweets
Feb 28, 2023
SCOOP: The Global Disinformation Index's own website hosted disinformation about its advisory board. Anne Applebaum tells me she never advised GDI in any official capacity and did not consent to be included on its website.… via @reason
Yesterday, I called out Applebaum, an Atlantic journalist, for smearing lab leak proponents. I was also curious whether she influence GDI's efforts to blacklist news sites that engaged in lab leak talk.
GDI portrayed news sites as "harming specific groups" if they expressed concern about a Chinese cover-up.
Read 9 tweets
Sep 27, 2022
Exclusive: The lawsuit that could stop Biden's student loan forgiveness plan has arrived. @PacificLegal believes it has found a solution to the standing problem. Thead:
"Only Congress has the power to pass laws and spend money under the Constitution," PLF tells Reason. "The administration's actions here are flagrantly illegal."…
PLF's plaintiff is an attorney at the firm who has student loans—these loans will eventually be forgiven under the public service program. But Biden's forgiveness plan will take precedence over that.
Read 6 tweets
Jul 2, 2022
Scoop: I obtained an email from the equity manager of Oregon's state health agency—she delayed a community meeting and then justified this on grounds that "urgency is a white supremacy value."
This is a teaching of Tema Okun, a (white) activist educator who claims that preferring quantity over quality, wanting things to be written down, perfectionism, becoming defensive, and yes, possessing a sense of urgency, are all white supremacist.
Okun's work appears every so often in activist workshop materials for schools; this is the first time I've seen a government health official cite it as an excuse to not be prepared for a meeting. Read the article here:…
Read 4 tweets
May 18, 2022
Nina Jankowicz was a partisan operative with a bad record of spotting disinformation, and DHS is right to "pause" the new governance board.… via @reason
The WaPo article about her resignation is very curiously framed. It focuses entirely on the so-called "coordinated" "rightwing" campaign of "harassment" against her. It does not mention any legitimate criticism of her whatsoever.
The Hunter Biden laptop story was the test for disinformation experts, and most of them failed it. Jankowicz failed it badly. That's the case against her. It isn't mentioned one. single. time. in the WaPo article.
Read 4 tweets
May 16, 2022
This just makes me furious. Law enforcement WAS ALERTED! Everybody was like, hey this kid is disturbed, please help, and the state police let him go. More broadly, social media sites ROUTINELY report violence and criminal behavior.… Image
The problem is not that we are inattentive to frightening speech. People saw something, and said something! The problem is law enforcement didn't act (or couldn't act, given practical limitations).
Hochul is doing classic blame-shifting. State police had Gendron but he "fell off their radar." Oops. Who to blame, I know, it's the internet's fault!
Read 5 tweets

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