Politics

White House Says Social Media Should ‘Be Held Accountable’ For COVID ‘Misinformation’

The White House said that social media companies should be "held accountable" for allowing Americans to post what it deems "disinformation."

Image Credit: Flickr Gage Skidmore, The White House Logo

In another chilling statement, the White House said on Tuesday that social media companies should be “held accountable” for allowing Americans to post what it deems “disinformation.”

During an interview with Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield stated of “misinformation” on social media that, “We’re reviewing that, and certainly they should be held accountable. And I think you’ve heard the president speak very aggressively about this. He understands this is an important piece of the ecosystem.”

The comments come after the White House admitted to working directly with Facebook to “flag” so-called “disinformation.”

Bedingfield also stated that any action on policy could include amending the Communications Decency Act, or Section 230 of the Act.

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Tensions began to surface between the White House and social media when President Joe Biden said that outlets such as Facebook were “killing people” by allowing what the Biden administration perceives as misinformation on their platform.

On Monday, Biden appeared to walk back his comments saying he was “not satisfied” that social media was doing enough to curb the spread of misinformation: “Facebook isn’t killing people — these 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information.”

Recently White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that, “I don’t think we’ve taken any options off the table. That’s up to Congress to determine how they want to proceed moving forward.” She continued, “We are not in a war or a battle with Facebook. We are in a battle with the virus.”

So Who Is Being Targeted By The White House?

According to a report in the U.K. Guardian, a report from a non-profit non-governmental organization called the Center for Countering Digital Hate has put together a list of who they call “The Disinformation Dozen.”

The CCDH claims these 12 people have a combined social media following of roughly 59 million people. On Facebook, the CCDH estimated that these dozen people are responsible for 73% of all “anti-vaccine content.”

So who are the disinformation dozen? Many of them are doctors or other types of health experts. The CCDH report obtained by the U.K. Guardian lists them as:

  • Joseph Mercola – described as an anti-vaccine entrepreneuer. They claim he sells dietary supplements and false cures as alternatives to vaccines.
  • The best known name on the list is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He is described as an “anti-vaxxer.”
  • Ty and Charlene Bollinger – also described by the CCDH as “anti-vax entrepreneuers.” The description also claims they promoted the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates wanted to inject the population with microchips.
  • Sherri Tenpenny – An osteopath physician who talks about the safety and efficacy of masks.
  • Rizza Islam – the claim is that his anti-vaccine posts and tweets are designed to spread vaccine hesitancy in the black community.
  • Rashid Buttar – also an osteopath physician who the CCDH claims spreads conspiracy theories about the vaccine.
  • Erin Elizabeth – works with Mercola and runs an alternative health website.
  • Sayer Ji – also runs an alternative health website.
  • Kelly Brogan – works with Ji, and also claims to practice “holistic psychiatry.”
  • Christiane Northrup – an OB/GYN who practices alternative medicine
  • Ben Tapper – a chiropractor who has spoke out against masking and the CCDH claims puts out misinformation
  • Kevin Jenkins – anti-vaccine activist who CCDH claims says the vaccine is “conspiracy” to “wipe out” black people.

The Beating Down Of Free Speech

The White House’s censorship efforts should send chills down the spines of every American, regardless of political affiliation.

Bob Jarvis, lawyer and professor of law at Nova Southeastern University says that while some cable news talking heads have speculated that misinformation is akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater, the comparison does not hold up.

He said, “‘Misinformation’ is covered by the First Amendment. Under the First Amendment, all information, no matter how wrong, is protected by the First Amendment. That is why, for example, Holocaust deniers can say what they say.”

However, Jarvis points out that a private company like Facebook can decide not to give someone use of their platform and access to other users.

Certainly true, under our system. But how “private” is a company that is working directly with the federal government? How are their decisions influenced by pressure, real or imagined, from the most powerful man in the world – the President of the United States?

And just to make the point as crystal clear as possible, the White House explicitly pointed the finger at their political enemies.

During her MSNBC interview, Kate Bedingfield added, “Again, I would go back to, there are conservative outlets who are creating irresponsible content, that are sharing misinformation about the virus that’s getting shared on these platforms.”

Conservative outlets?

This piece originally appeared in ThePoliticalInsider.com and is used by permission.

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