The White House pressured Facebook to remove posts about COVID-19 , WSJ reported.
Facebook stepped up moderation on posts claiming the virus was man-made.
But execs internally questioned and disagreed with the directives, according to newly uncovered emails.
When the White House urged Facebook to clamp down on content regarding COVID-19 — including misinformation or jokes about vaccines — some executives at the company thought CEO Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t be happy.
The Biden administration pushed Facebook, now under the parent company Meta, to take down content about COVID-19, including theories about its origin and satire about the vaccines being unsafe, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing internal emails and communications.
The report indicates that the Big Tech company gave into many demands, despite some executives pushing back and saying Zuckerberg wouldn’t be on board, the Journal reported.
“I can’t see Mark in a million years being comfortable with removing that—and I wouldn’t recommend it,” said Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs at the time, in an email regarding the Biden administration’s request to take down humorous content about the vaccine, the WSJ reported.
Additional emails indicate that others at the company didn’t agree with the Biden administration’s content-moderation demands, with some executives worrying the removal of certain posts would only heighten vaccine skepticism, WSJ reported.
“There is likely a significant gap between what the WH would like us to remove and what we are comfortable removing,” an unnamed Facebook vice president wrote, according to the WSJ
The VP expressed regret for giving into pressure and taking down — rather than demoting or labeling — content that said COVID-19 was man-made, a move that went against Meta’s COVID-19 policy.
A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment on the report to Insider and did not comment to the Journal.
“We have consistently made it clear that we believe social-media companies have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects of their platforms that they have on the American people,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday.
The White House lambasted Facebook in 2021 for its handling of COVID-19 misinformation, with Biden saying Facebook was “killing people.” He later rescinded those comments but urged Facebook to better control misinformation.
At the time, the company criticized Biden’s comments, citing data that said 85% of US Facebook users were either vaccinated or wanted to receive the shot.
Facebook first announced its plan to take down false information on coronavirus vaccines in December 2020, about a month after the first COVID-19 vaccine was proven to be effective. Over next year, the platform shifted what it would take down a number of times.
The Journal’s report news as the House Judiciary Committee investigates the Biden administration’s attempts to address misinformation on social media platforms. The internal Facebook emails were obtained by the Republican-led committee, the WSJ reported.
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