Social media giant Facebook took down content that speculated COVID-19 was man-made after it was pressured by the Biden administration, according to internal company correspondences.
The emails, obtained by the House Judiciary Committee and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, show Facebook executives deliberating about their approach to handling posts asserting that COVID was man-made.
In the internal emails, the company’s executives expressed confusion and regret over the censorship of these posts.
“Can someone quickly remind me why we were removing—rather than demoting/labeling—claims that Covid is man-made?” Facebook’s president for global affairs, Nick Clegg, said in a July 2021 email.
“We were under pressure from the administration and others to do more,” replied a Facebook vice president responsible for content policy.
“We shouldn’t have done it.”
The email conversation occurred three months after Facebook’s parent company chose to lift the prohibition of posts that claimed COVID-19 was man-made due to growing debate regarding the virus’s origin.
Jim Jordan acquired the email and other company communications as part of his investigation by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee into social media censorship efforts by the Biden administration.
Biden said in July of 2021 that so-called misinformation from vaccine skeptics is “killing people.”
Following Biden’s remarks, Facebook began removing posts disfavored by the White House.
“There is likely a significant gap between what the WH would like us to remove and what we are comfortable removing,” a Facebook vice president said in an internal memo, according to the WSJ.
Emails show that the White House also targeted comedic posts that joked about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The WH has previously indicated that it thinks humor should be removed if it is premised on the vaccine having side effects, so we expect it would similarly want to see humor about vaccine hesitancy removed,” the Facebook vice president wrote.
According to Facebook’s Covid-19 policy, the platform works to remove content that “contributes to the risk of real-world harm,” including by prohibiting content that denies the existence of coronavirus, as well as claims that guarantee Covid-19 shots will prevent the coronavirus and claims that the vaccines have not been approved and are unsafe or ineffective at preventing severe illness or death, Forbes reported.
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone confirmed the platform has provided the House Judiciary Committee with additional documents this week:
“For many months, Meta has operated in good faith with this committee’s sweeping requests for information,” adding the company “will continue to comply, as we have thus far, with good faith requests from the committee,” Stone said.