Here Are All The Times The Biden Administration Has Called For Tech Censorship

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden holds a formal news conference at the White House

The Biden administration has frequently urged social media and technology companies to censor users, stressing the perceived dangers of “misinformation.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki drew criticism after she said Tuesday that Spotify and other social media companies need to be “doing more” to stop the spread of “mis- and disinformation” on their platforms, echoing calls made in July for Facebook to remove posts containing vaccine misinformation. Psaki’s comments were in response to a question regarding backlash towards podcast host Joe Rogan, with whom Spotify has an exclusive contract, for hosting two guests who were skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

“Our hope is that all major tech platforms and all major news sources for that matter be responsible and be vigilant,” Psaki said.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy took an even more aggressive stance towards Rogan and alleged vaccine misinformation in an interview with MSNBC on Jan. 25, saying tech companies and media organizations have an “important role to play” in curating information, and that “we” must “root out” misinformation.

“This not just about what the government can do,” Murthy said. “This is about companies and individuals recognizing that the only way we get past misinformation is if we are careful about what we say and use the power that we have to limit the spread of misinformation.”

Both Psaki and Murthy previously urged social media companies to take action against the spread of misinformation on their platforms on July 15, with Murthy releasing a “misinformation advisory” intended to instruct institutions, including tech companies, on how to handle false or misleading COVID-19 information.

The advisory recommended tech platforms “impose clear consequences for accounts that repeatedly violate platform policies” regarding COVID-19 misinformation and that platforms “redesign recommendation algorithms to avoid amplifying misinformation, build in “frictions”— such as suggestions and warnings—to reduce the sharing of misinformation, and make it easier for users to report misinformation.”

Following the release of the advisory, Psaki told reporters at a press conference that the White House was “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation”

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Psaki urged Facebook and other social media platforms to “create a robust enforcement strategy that bridges their properties and provides transparency about the rules,” to take “faster action against harmful posts,” and to promote “quality information sources in their feed algorithm.”

Psaki also suggested that if a user was banned on one social media platform, they should be banned on all of them.

President Joe Biden echoed Psaki’s comments on July 16, saying Facebook should “do something” about the misinformation on its platform.

“They’re killing people,” Biden said. “I mean, they’re really – Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people.”

Biden later reiterated his calls to address misinformation related to the COVID-19 virus and vaccine in January, appearing to urge social media companies to censor content.

“I make a special appeal to social media companies and media outlets: Please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that’s on your shows,” Biden said. “It has to stop.”

Some of the most forceful comments directed towards perceived spreaders of vaccine misinformation came from former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, who implied incorrect claims regarding the vaccine should not be seen as protected speech.

“Isn’t this like yelling fire in a crowded theater?” Collins asked in a November interview with NPR. “Are you really allowed to do that without some consequences?”

While the Biden administration’s calls for censorship have typically been confined to claims about COVID-19 and vaccines, White House officials have also suggested social media companies have a role to play in curbing other forms of misinformation.

In response to a question regarding former President Donald Trump’s suspension from Facebook, Psaki told reporters in May that platforms should not “amplify” certain speech, though it is unclear what she meant.

“The president’s view is that the major platforms have a responsibility related to the health and safety of all Americans to stop amplifying untrustworthy content, disinformation and misinformation, especially related to COVID-19, vaccinations and elections,” Psaki said.

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