The Biden administration is playing an active role in flagging Facebook posts it considers to be “problematic” or “disinformation,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
During a Thursday press conference, Psaki said White House senior staff were engaging with “social media platforms” to combat the spread of “misinformation specifically on the pandemic.”
“In terms of actions we are taking or that we’re working to take, I should say, from the federal government, we’ve increased disinformation research and tracking within the surgeon general’s office. We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” she said.
The filing was revealed a day after a federal court in Washington, D.C., unsealed a motion showing the Trump administration’s DOJ had issued a grand jury subpoena to Twitter demanding that it turn over the identifying information regarding the user @NunesAlt.
The latest document unsealed Tuesday shows that the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. withdrew the subpoena in March, two months after President Biden took office.
In the filing, the DOJ asked a federal judge in March to deny Twitter’s motion to quash the subpoena, saying the case was moot since the demand had been withdrawn March 17.
On Monday it was revealed that Twitter had asked a federal judge to throw out the subpoena, arguing that it raised First Amendment concerns.
The Pentagon is planning on launching a program that would screen military personnel’s social media for “extremist material” — looking to retain a private firm to do the digging in order to circumvent First Amendment protections, according to a report.
Internal Defense Department documents reviewed by The Intercept reveal that Bishop Garrison, a senior advisor to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tasked with addressing “extremism” in the armed forces, is currently in the process of designing a social media screening program which will “continuously” monitor for “concerning behaviors.”
In the past, the Pentagon has shied away from surveilling members due to First Amendment protections, as well as other privacy concerns.
Fast forward to Friday, when—to the consternation of many journalists—Biden’s Justice Department defended the Trump-era move against the Post as, in Barrett’s words, “an investigative step of last resort that was not taken lightly.” We do not yet know of any instances of Biden himself going after journalists’ sources. But he hasn’t pledged explicitly that he won’t, either—and, in its first weeks in office, his administration continued the Trump-era push to extradite and prosecute Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, under the Espionage Act, drawing blowback from a coalition of press-freedom groups who say that the charges against Assange threaten to criminalize various routine acts of journalism. As the Freedom of the Press Foundation noted in January, after Biden was inaugurated, he had “already been lauded for striking a new tone” with the press. “But refraining from insulting and delegitimizing reporters on a daily basis is an incredibly low bar. It is by the actions of its Justice Department and intelligence agencies that the Biden administration should ultimately be judged.”
When Joe Biden becomes president of the United States on January 20, a historic opportunity awaits him to demonstrate America’s commitment to the First Amendment. He can, in a stroke, reverse four years of White House persecution of journalism by withdrawing the application to extradite Julian Assange from Britain to the U.S. This would be in line with the departures from Trump policies Biden is proposing on health care, environmental protection, and tax fairness. Assange’s liberty represents the liberty of all journalists and publishers whose job is to expose government and corporate criminality without fear of prosecution. We need and deserve to be protected against government control of the press.