Recently, I wrote about the disclosure of an alleged backchannel between the CDC and Twitter on censoring critics of the agency and its recommendations. Now, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed how the FBI warned Facebook about “Russian propaganda” before the Hunter Biden laptop story dropped in 2020. This follows reports that the FBI told agents not to pursue the laptop and to slow walk any investigation into Hunter Biden’s alleged influence peddling schemes.
Zuckerberg stated on The Joe Rogan Experience that “The FBI, I think, basically came to us – some folks on our team – and was like, ‘Hey, just so you know, like, you should be on high alert… We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. We have it on notice that, basically, there’s about to be some kind of dump of that’s similar to that. So just be vigilant.’”
It is not clear why the FBI considered this type of media outreach was part of its responsibility as a law enforcement agency. This was before the presidential election and actively discouraged a major platform to allow discussion of major allegations of corruption. The use of the FBI for such a role gave Facebook officials ample cover to expand their censorship operations.
The company only recently allowed customers to discuss the lab theory of the origins of Covid after years of biased censorship. Facebook’s decision to allow people to discuss the theory followed the company’s Oversight Board upholding a ban on any postings of Trump, a move that even figures like Germany’s Angela Merkel and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) have criticized as a danger to free speech. Even Trump’s voice has been banned by Facebook. Trump remains too harmful for Facebook users to hear . . . at least until the company decides that they are ready for such exposure. Facebook has tried to get customers to embrace censorship in a commercial campaign despite its long record of abusive and biased “content modification.”
Zuckerberg just shrugged when pressed on his company effectively joining the effort to kill the story before the election: “Yeah, it sucks. It turned out, after the fact, the fact-checkers looked into it. No one was able to say it was false.”
As with the earlier column on the CDC’s work with Twitter, there is a growing concern over the use of such backchannels for censorship by surrogates in these social media companies.
Zuckerberg stressed that, unlike Twitter, Facebook only buried the story but allowed limited discussion. It is the type of rationalization that only a censor would see as redeeming. The alternative is free speech where Facebook does not assume the right to control what people discuss on such political issues.