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Biden White House lobbied Facebook to censor vaccine skeptics on private messaging service WhatsApp

The past few months have revealed enormous government pressure on social media platforms to censor public content. New emails revealed by Missouri vs. Biden show that the administration went further, urging Facebook to also censor private communications on its WhatsApp messaging service.

Facebook (now known as Meta) once censored its private messaging app. Ahead of Brazil’s 2018 presidential election, WhatsApp banned more than 100,000 accounts amid scare stories that the platform was being used by supporters of populist candidate Jair Bolsonaro to spread “disinformation”.

Mark Zuckerberg surrounded by guards (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

A protester holds a sign saying "Termination of all mandates" as people gather for a rally with truckers at the start of "The Convoy of Peoples" protest against Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates in Adelanto, California on February 23, 2022. - The convoy is heading to Washington, DC, and is expected to arrive March 5.

A protester holds a sign reading ‘End All Mandates’ as people gather for a rally with truckers at the start of ‘The Peoples Convoy’ protest against Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates in Adelanto, California, on February 23, 2022. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

According to emails obtained through discovery in Missouri vs. Biden, a multi-state lawsuit accusing the Biden administration of colluding with tech companies to suppress First Amendment rights in the United States, the White House has also sought censorship on WhatsApp. Multiple emails beginning in March 2021 show Biden chief digital strategist Rob Flaherty urging Facebook executives to censor Americans on WhatsApp.

Via Silent Lunch:

Flaherty wanted to know what they were doing to reduce the damage on the messaging app. Seemingly dissatisfied with the previous explanations, on March 22, 2021, he wrote: “If you don’t see the message, I’m really curious – how do you know what types of messages you have deleted?

Facebook told the White House it was looking to limit virality on its platform in general, which would in turn stifle the flow of “misinformation” to reach a wider audience.

The removal tools available to them – in particular, tagging and limiting the transmission of messages – the Meta employee explained, were “content-independent” direct interventions. The premise was that messages that weren’t from a close contact were more likely to contain misinformation. Thus, by preventing virality in general, the company automatically contributed to preventing misinformation.

The response apparently did not satisfy Flaherty, who continued to press Facebook for more information on its efforts to stop “vaccine skeptical content”.

In one of the follow-up exchanges, Flaherty seemed unhappy with the response and again pressed Meta to take action against the vaccine hesitancy. “I care most about the actions and changes you make to make sure you don’t make our nation’s vaccine hesitancy problem worse,” he wrote. “I still don’t have a good empirical answer on how effectively you’ve reduced the spread of vaccine skeptical content and misinformation to the people involved in vaccine closure.”

While there’s no evidence that Facebook acquiesced to the government’s demands, it does show how far the feds wanted to go: censoring private posts as well as public posts. Of course, to achieve this, private messages should be monitored.

The UK government, led by an ostensibly conservative party, is also waging an assault on private messaging apps. It is currently evaluating legislation that would require private messaging apps to monitor private messages for illegal content. Signal, a popular crypto app, said it would quit the UK if such proposals become law.

Allum Bokhari is Breitbart News’ Senior Technology Correspondent. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.

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