The White House insists it does not use the Facebook portal for censorship | Tech US News

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The White House is not using the secretive Facebook portal to demand the removal of alleged “disinformation,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday when asked about a stunning report detailing how government officials are forcing tech companies to suppress online speeches — despite her predecessor, Jen Psaki, saying last year that the White House was “flagging” Facebook posts she didn’t like.

When pressed by The Post, Jean-Pierre emphatically said “no,” the White House does not use the recently disclosed portal to request the removal of Facebook or Instagram posts.

The Intercept revealed Monday the existence of a portal — facebook.com/xtakedowns — through which users with a government or law enforcement email address can submit content for takedown.

The disclosure sparked outrage from civil libertarians, who said the mechanism violates the spirit — if not the letter — of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

“Jen Psaki said from that stage in the summer of 2021, ‘We flag problematic posts for Facebook that spread misinformation,'” RealClearPolitics reporter Philip Wegmann told Jean-Pierre. “Can you tell us if the White House is still marking social media posts as disinformation and if you’re forwarding them to Facebook through a special portal?”

Jean-Pierre
Karine Jean-Pierre said that the White House does not use the Facebook portal to censor users.
AFP via Getty Images

Jean-Pierre initially responded by asking Wegmann to “say a little more” about his investigation.

Wegmann went on to outline some of the key details from the Intercept disclosure.

“The Intercept reported on opportunities for the federal government to identify various posts for social media companies that contained what was perceived to be misinformation about the origins of COVID, the vaccine and other things like Ukraine or the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Wegmann said.

“I will say this,” replied Jean-Pierre, “The administration – the Biden administration remains fully committed to our mission of protecting the security and resilience of our elections and protecting our election infrastructure. This includes combating disinformation.”

Jean-Pierre pointed out that the Biden administration’s efforts to combat allegedly false information on the Internet came before the disastrous April introduction of the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Steering Committee, which was then disbanded.

“We’re working to protect that — to protect Americans from disinformation that threatens the homeland, including malicious efforts spread by foreign adversaries, [which] it started before the Disinformation Management Committee was created,” Jean-Pierre continued. “Actually, some of that work started before this administration. So I want to be very clear that the inter-agency work continues today. I don’t want to be ahead of anything else. This is a [matter for the] Department of Homeland Security – so I would refer you to them.

“So you’re flagging misinformation?” Wegmann asked.

“I have nothing more to add. This is the Department of Homeland Security [matter] which I would refer you to,” she said without an explicit denial.

The Post then asked Jean-Pierre for a definitive answer.

“Is the White House really involved in this secret government censorship portal? I think that was part of the question. Does the White House provide examples of alleged misinformation and disinformation for Facebook to censor through this portal?” asked The Post.

Jean-Pierre press conference
Jean-Pierre’s predecessor, Jen Psaki, said last year that the White House was “flagging” social media posts.
Getty Images

“No,” said Jean-Pierre.

The press secretary did not say how precisely the White House – at least last year – flagged alleged disinformation to Facebook.

Psaki said the White House “flagellated” the announcements at a press conference on July 15, 2021, in which Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated that misinformation about COVID-19 constituted a public health crisis.

“For Facebook, we flag problematic posts that spread misinformation,” Psaki said. “We work with doctors and healthcare professionals to connect — to connect medical professionals with popular — who are popular with their audience with accurate information and increase trusted content. This is how we help get trusted content.”

Psaki also said at this briefing, “it is important that we act faster against harmful posts. As you all know, information travels pretty fast on social media platforms; sometimes it is not accurate. And Facebook must act more quickly to remove harmful, infringing posts, which will often remain posted for days under their takedown policies. This is too long.”

American Civil Liberties Union tweeted Tuesday in response to the Intercept report: “The First Amendment prohibits the government from deciding for us what is true or not, online or anywhere. Our government cannot use private pressure to circumvent our constitutional rights.”

In some cases, courts prohibit the government from using its influence over private parties to avoid potential constitutional violations. For example, authorities may not in some cases direct companies to provide information that would otherwise require a Fourth Amendment warrant.

Critics likened the disbanded DHS disinformation board to an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” when it was announced just after billionaire Elon Musk struck a deal to buy Twitter to implement reforms to support free speech.

Jean-Pierre
Jean-Pierre said it was a matter of homeland security.
AP

The Facebook revelation, which continues the central and most controversial aspect of the DHS board, coincidentally comes just days after Musk took over Twitter after firing executives accused of politically biased censorship.

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and other critics said the committee’s creation may have been illegal, pointing to the Deficiency Prevention Act, which says the executive branch can’t spend money unless Congress authorizes it , and to the rules of the Congressional Review Act for new regulatory actions.

So-called disinformation expert Nina Jankowicz is expected to lead the DHS board, despite repeatedly questioning The Post’s reporting on documents from Hunter Biden’s laptop. The Post’s reporting was censored by Facebook and Twitter before the 2020 election — only to be verified by the Washington Post and New York Times 15 months later.

Psaki said earlier this year that the board would simply continue the anti-disinformation work done during the Trump administration, highlighting the work of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — whose then-director Chris Krebs was fired by President Donald Trump for refusing to his claims about Election Fraud 2020.

Opponents of online censorship note that speech deemed “disinformation” can later gain mainstream acceptance. For example, Facebook banned discussion of the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s possible role in the COVID-19 pandemic until mid-2021. Government officials who funneled funding to the lab’s risky research said it was an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory, but it later gained widespread credence, including among US spy agencies, as one of two possible explanations for the pandemic’s origins.



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