The Facebook Files: How The CDC Colluded With Meta To Suppress ‘Misinformation’

The CDC played a direct role in moderating and censoring speech on Facebook surrounding the COVID pandemic, emails obtained in a lawsuit against the Biden administration suggest.

Facebook’s cozy relationship with the CDC was revealed after the state of Missouri sued the federal government for alleged censorship of citizens in violation of the First Amendment. Reason Editor Robby Soave outlined the nature of the communication in a series of tweets reminiscent of the Twitter files, with screenshots of the relevant emails between the CDC and Meta employees.

“The CDC had significant input on pandemic-era policies at Meta,” Soave wrote. “The CDC was consulted frequently, at times daily, receiving constant updates about which topics were trending, and giving recommendations on what content to flag as false or misleading.”

2. The CDC had significant input on pandemic-era policies at Meta. The CDC was consulted frequently, at times daily, receiving constant updates about which topics were trending, and giving recommendations on what content to flag as false or misleading. https://t.co/rEXxY1VDk3

— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) January 19, 2023

The revelations mirror disclosures about Twitter’s close cooperation with government officials in suppressing claims that went against the official line were made voluntarily after Elon Musk bought that platform.

By May of 2021, the CDC was monitoring statements by Facebook users about the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines, and highlighting certain ideas it wanted banned and suppressed. Facebook was eager to acquiesce — one moderator went so far as to thank the CDC for “help in debunking” these claims.

Notably, one widely circulated claim that drew the attention of the CDC was the “lab leak” theory — the notion that COVID was biologically engineered — an idea the CDC dismissed as technically possible, but highly improbable. Facebook would crack down on users and accounts promoting the lab leak theory shortly after this exchange.

By July of 2021, the CDC was flagging posts for concerns beyond factual accuracy — claims that “may cause harm” or induce “vaccine refusal” were also flagged for censorship.

“Meta gave the CDC de facto power to police COVID misinfo on the platforms; the CDC took the position that essentially any erroneous claim could contribute to vaccine hesitancy and cause social harm. This was a recipe for vast silencing, at the feds’ implicit behest.” After the FDA granted emergency authorization for the use of COVID vaccines in children, Facebook agreed to censor all posts suggesting that the vaccine was not safe for kids.

The CDC also kept a watchful eye on criticism and mockery of former Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci.

11. Meta also kept the CDC apprised of criticism of Anthony Fauci. One email warned the CDC that Facebook users were mocking Fauci for changing his mind about masking and double-masking. The CDC replied that this information was “very helpful.” pic.twitter.com/CUM5wwORtM

— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) January 19, 2023

Personal details from the email exchanges reveal a cordial relationship between Meta and the CDC, with Meta employees referring to their counterparts at the CDC as “colleagues” and working to provide them many channels to flag and report content. However, co-operation may not have been totally voluntary — members of the White House staff routinely and publicly berated Facebook and other social media platforms for not taking down offending posts fast enough, and as recently as July of 2021, President Biden himself said Facebook was “killing people.”

“Facebook is a private entity, and thus is within its rights to moderate content in any fashion it sees fit,” Soave concluded. “But the federal government’s efforts to pressure social media companies cannot be waved away. Such an arrangement—whereby private entities, at the behest of the government, become ideological enforcers—is unacceptable. And it may be illegal.”

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