Republicans Cry Censorship Over White House Disinformation Flagging

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

Republican leaders on the powerful Energy & Commerce Committee have officially written to complain to the White House about what they say are its attempts "to pressure private companies like Twitter and Facebook to censor certain speech or silence individuals." They want the Biden Administration to provide the committee with its communications with Big Tech.

That came after the release of some communications showing the White House sought to have what it considered disinformation removed from social media platforms.

The Republicans saw it differently. "The information revealed shows how quick Big Tech is to censor Americans to appease their Democrat allies in the White House," they told the White House.

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The Republicans first gave a copy of the letter seeking those communications to the New York Post, which is co-owned with Fox News, whose commentators have been critical of the Administration efforts to either crack down on misinformation and disinformation, as Democrats see it, or censor conservative critics, as Republicans allege.

"We know that administration officials and federal bureaucrats requested these companies to censor legitimate news stories and public discourse regarding the COVID-19 pandemic under the guise of combating misinformation, disinformation, and election interference," they wrote the White House Tuesday (Sept 13).

The "they" are Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, ranking member of the committee, Bob Latta, ranking member on the Communications Subcommittee, and Gus Bilirakis, ranking member of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee.

Those legislators cited as an example what they said was Facebook's admission it has restricted access to apparent disinformation at the behest of the FBI, that information being related to the Hunter Biden laptop story they say Democrats and the media have downplayed for political reasons.

They also pointed to meetings between Twitter and White House officials over the speech of a conservative user of their platforms.

Those examples came following efforts by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri to get access to communications between the White House and social media. While they got some info, they are seeking more and the legislators want to provide some backup, asking the White House to retain and provide communications to the Committee, including related to COVID-19 conversations with employees of Facebook.

"Administration officials have previously described conservative users as their political enemies, and we have previously expressed our concern that the administration’s recent actions could lead private companies to censor conservatives due to increased White House pressure," the legislators wrote.

They want a response from the White House by Sept. 26. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.