FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL: Facebook staffers were leaking to the White House as the tech company and the Biden administration battled over COVID-19 vaccine content and whether Facebook should be censoring it, according to emails obtained by The Daily Signal.
In an April 18, 2021, email that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, produced to the House Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government, executive Nick Clegg told Facebook colleagues that Andy Slavitt, then a White House senior adviser on the COVID-19 response, said Facebook employees were leaking to the White House.
Clegg, who said that he had just had a long call with Slavitt, wrote that “Andy told me in confidence … that internal FB employees are leaking to his team (I assume via Rob F[laherty] accounts of disobliging remarks made about both Andy and Rob by FB decision makers.”
Flaherty was then the digital director at the Biden White House.
Clegg, who is the president of global affairs at Meta, also wrote that Slavitt said Facebook employees suggested that Facebook leadership was planning to manipulate the White House with the data it shared.
“Those remarks [by Facebook decision makers] are coupled with suggestions about how FB should ‘snow’ the White House with info/data about authoritative Covid info in order not to share the most telling/helpful data about content which contributes to vaccine hesitancy,” he added about what Facebook employees were allegedly leaking to the Biden administration.
The leaks occurred at a time when Facebook faced heavy pressure from the Biden White House to censor content on the COVID-19 vaccine. Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the government weaponization subcommittee, has been revealing the extent of the pressure in the “Facebook files” posts he releases on Twitter, sourced from documents and emails Meta shared with the subcommittee.
“These newly subpoenaed meeting notes continue to show the Biden White House’s desire to direct and control content on Facebook,” writes Jordan.
Brian Rice, vice president of public policy at Meta, responded to Clegg’s April 2021 email, saying, “Rob made an offhand comment about conversations with ‘other people from Facebook’ during a recent conversation, this is clearly what he was referencing.”
Rice added, “I haven’t been part of any conversation that includes disparaging remarks made about Andy, or about any strategy to snow the White House[.]”
Documents obtained by the subcommittee reveal that Facebook temporarily throttled the reach of a popular Tucker Carlson video on the COVID-19 vaccine, even while acknowledging that the video did not violate any of Facebook’s rules. The White House also complained to Facebook about the reach of a popular meme suggesting that those who received the COVID-19 vaccine may later sue for injuries.
Flaherty, the then-digital director at the White House, also asked a question suggesting that Facebook might want to curb the reach of Tomi Lahren, a commentator who had announced she would not get the vaccine, and The Daily Wire, a conservative news outlet. “If you were to change the algorithm so that people were more likely to see [New York Times], [Wall Street Journal], any authoritative news source over Daily Wire, Tomi Lahren, polarizing people. You wouldn’t have a mechanism to check the material impact?” Flaherty wrote in an email to Facebook employees.
According to Open Secrets, Meta employees heavily favor Democrat candidates over Republican candidates. In 2020, the year Joe Biden was elected president, Meta employees gave $6.3 million to Democrats and $578,000 to Republicans.
The emails provided to The Daily Signal also indicate the White House told Facebook YouTube was censoring vaccine content more aggressively.
“Andy [Slavitt] attended a meeting of misinfo researchers (didn’t provide names) organized by Rob F[laherty] on Friday in which the consenus was that FB is a ‘disinformation factory’, and that YT [YouTube] has made significant advances to remove content leading to vaccine hesitancy whilst we have lagged behind,” Clegg wrote in the April 18, 2021, email.
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