There have been a number of hints at the US government’s circumvention of the first amendment by pressuring tech companies to censor viewpoint-based content ( e.g., on COVID vaccines, elections, …). However, the latest Twitter drop and FOIA request outputs seems to make connection quite clear, including damningly coercive corresponding between Rob Flaherty (Deputy Assistant to the President) and Facebook and Google.
The Wall Street Journal outlines the case, with some links, as does Tracy Høeg and Minnesota Attorney General Andrew Bailey on Twitter. Here is one example of the brow-beating:
From: Flaherty, Rob EOP/WHO [REDACTED]@who.eop.gov>
Date: Friday, April 9, 2021 at 2:56 PM
Subject: RE: Follow up--WA responses
Thanks for this, [REDACTED]oor should be trying to land a time.
Will say I'm really mostly interested in what effects the interventions and products you've tested have had on increasing vaccine interestwithin hesitant communities, and which ones have shown promise. Reallycouldn'tcare less about products unless they're having measurable impact. And while the product safari has been interesting, at the end of the day, I care mostly about what actions and changes you're making to ensure sure you're not making our country's vaccine hesitancy problem worse. I definitely have what I believe to be a non-comprehensive list of products you're building but I still don't have a good, empirical answer on how effective you've been at reducingthe spread of vaccine -skeptical content and misinformation to vaccine fence sitters in the now-folded "lockdown." If [REDACTED] can speak to those things, great [REDACTED] hasn't been able to, but I'm sure someone there can.
In the electoral context, you tested and deployed an algorithmic shift that promoted quality news and information about the election. This was reported in the New York Times and also readily apparent to anyone with cursory social listening tools. You only did this, however, after an election that you helped increase skepticism in, and an insurrection which was plotted, in large part, on your platform. And then you turned it back off. I want some assurances, based in data, that you are not doing the same thing again here.
The main question, in my mind, regards what can be done at this point. I’m sure that the administration would be happy enough to issue a public apology and then find alternative methods for censoring unwanted data … is there a systematic remedy?
Thanks for reading Ignorantia Peritorum ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.