The Biden administration pressured social media platforms to act as a government agency to silence critics of its rule. There’s hard proof of this in the case of former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson.
Berenson practiced journalism during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic by posting skepticism over the effectiveness of lockdowns, mask mandates, and mRNA vaccines. Berenson scoured data and asked tough questions on Twitter. The social media service permanently suspended him — then later reinstated his account following a legal settlement — for his audacity.
On Friday, Berenson released internal communications that revealed Biden’s aides held meetings with Twitter staffers during which staffers demanded the removal of Berenson’s account before Twitter ultimately did.
“They really wanted to know about Alex Berenson,” one Twitter employee wrote to another to describe a recent meeting with Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to President Biden’s COVID response team. “Andy Slavitt suggested they had seen data viz [visualization] that had shown he was the epicenter of disinfo that radiated outwards to the persuadable public.”
Berenson plans to sue the administration and Slavitt for violating his right to free speech. The lawsuit will seek definitive information as to what extent the government influenced a social media service to suppress a voice that dissented against policy.
Advocates for social media censorship have accurately argued that free speech rights do not apply to private companies, such as Twitter. Yet we have a presidential administration using its power to turn private platforms into “state actors,” whom citizens can sue for restricting First Amendment rights.
These internal communications show a government using a third party to subvert the foundation of the First Amendment. The U.S. government does not have the legal ability to censor the public on its own. So, here is an administration trying to seize unconstitutional power by strong-arming a communication platform beholden to a protection called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
That is not a development to take lightly. We joked in a July column about a type of Chinese-style social credit system creeping into American society. But we shouldn’t have laughed. The messages Berenson leaked precisely show high-ranking U.S. officials using back channels to suppress the online use of a subject who disputes a repressive government ruling.
Biden’s government pursued uncanny control of public conversation from the start. Perpetrators of wrongthink shall not post in Biden’s America.
Last summer, then-press secretary Jen Psaki admitted that the White House had been identifying “problematic” posts for Facebook to censor because they contained what the White House deemed “misinformation” about COVID-19. A month later, Facebook announced it had removed over 20 million pieces of COVID “misinformation,” including posts that doubted that mRNA vaccines stopped the spread.
In other words, Facebook, the most powerful social media platform across the globe, removed posts that accurately asserted that coronavirus vaccines do not work in the manner our leaders communicated. But the White House put down its foot, and the Facebook marks caved into submission.
Facebook acted as an asset of the government, a topic that Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro discussed with OutKick at the time:
“The fact that you now have the media and the Democrats pushing to police Facebook is ugly authoritarianism. We need to be pushing back on that level because that actually is, in some cases, government-sponsored action. We have the White House telling Facebook to take things down. Now you’re looking at Facebook as an agent of the government. That’s a First Amendment case.”
The public ought to know the exact degree to which Big Tech has ruled on behalf of the administration. The ramifications are substantial.
Twitter and Co.’s impact has graduated beyond a place to declare gender pronouns and find self-gratification.
Social media services have established an ability to manipulate perceptions of reality through rigged algorithms, disproportionate promotion of political opinions, and likely a bunch of NPC bots amplifying posts. Anonymous employees make editorial decisions about which links to populate, bury, and label.
And we now know via internal communications Twitter employees were in contact with government officials over the past year as they policed posts containing messaging regarding the vaccine, violent threats, hateful rhetoric, and the redefining of the most basic words in the English language, like “woman.”
Suffice to say that the government interfering in the conversation through the vein of social media is the greatest threat to free speech in modern American history.
Were members of the COVID response team in the ear of Twitter when it banned Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a former researcher at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, and other verified accounts for publicizing clues that the pandemic originated out of a lab in Wuhan? Much of the same government officials who pushed for vaccine mandates tried to squash this idea, a conspiracy turned probability.
Did Twitter ban users in April for, as it put it, climate change denial, or for questioning Biden’s use of related executive action?
Previous columns at OutKick:
A politically compromised Twitter now sets out to moderate content ahead of the 2022 midterms as part of a “civic integrity policy.” The same staffers who punished skeptics of the Democratic Party’s pandemic response will decipher disinformation from facts pertaining to the following issues: abortion, inflation, crime, and education.
Consider this a preemptive strike on the marketplace of ideas.
Twitter won’t alone decide the fates of the House and Senate, though it projects to have an impact. Over 16 percent of voters say they would’ve voted differently in 2020 had Big Tech not suppressed an accurately reported account of the Hunter Biden laptop story. Twitter and Facebook, not Trump and Russia, colluded to interfere in a presidential election.
Tech platforms are now the most prevalent form of messaging in the country. They are the de-facto editors of the press, the arbiters of truth and propaganda. There’s hardly a greater asset to wield for a regime that appointed a disinformation czar.
The most realistic equivalent to an Orwellian society is one in which the government can intercept the publication of ideas contradictory to its prevailing narrative — the Biden administration’s precise mission when it pressured Twitter to dispose of a practicing journalist.
That’s the White House communicating with a social media platform in the context of not a private company, but an agent to Joe Biden’s government.