Two Republican attorneys general have released documents showing what they say is the White House’s pressure campaign on Facebook to censor content, including a video by conservative media personality Tucker Carlson on the COVID-19 vaccines.
The new documents, released on Jan. 9 and 10 by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, are part of a court-ordered discovery process in a lawsuit filed in May 2022 by the two states against the Biden administration for allegedly colluding with social media giants to suppress Americans’ free speech.
“This case is about the Biden Administration’s blatant disregard for the First Amendment and its collusion with Big Tech social media companies to suppress speech it disagrees with,” Bailey said in a statement.
Bailey recently took over as Missouri attorney general from Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), who along with Landry sued the Biden administration and on Jan. 5 was sworn in as a U.S. senator.
The documents Bailey released show the efforts of White House Digital Director Robert Flaherty and his team to suppress opposing viewpoints on major social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.
In one email from Flaherty to an unidentified Facebook employee shared by Bailey, the White House digital director demands that Facebook dial up its efforts to remove “bad information” on COVID-19 vaccines.
Flaherty complains in the email that “removing bad information from search” is an easy “low-bar” step Facebook could take “to make people like me think you’re taking action,” per the screenshot shared by Bailey.
“If you’re not getting that right, it raises even more questions about the higher bar stuff,” he continues, adding that other social media platforms were doing a better job of “keeping the bad stuff” out of their search results.
“I don’t know why you guys can’t figure this out,” Flaherty said.
‘Constitutional Right to Free and Open Debate’
The dozen or so exhibits Bailey shared paint much the same picture, namely that of the White House pressuring Facebook to step up its efforts to reduce vaccine-related “misinformation.”
Another email chain revealed by Bailey shows a Facebook staffer telling White House officials the company is focused on reducing the virality of content that discourages vaccines even when it doesn’t contain “actionable information,” as well as “often-true content.”
Other correspondence disclosed by the Missouri AG shows Flaherty complaining that Facebook refused to take down a video featuring conservative media personality Tucker Carlson on COVID-19 vaccines.
Facebook parent Meta and the White House have not responded to requests for comment from The Epoch Times.
“I will always fight back against unelected bureaucrats who seek indoctrinate the people of this state by violating our constitutional right to free and open debate,” Bailey said in a statement.
Focus on Tucker Carlson
The email chains shared by Landry, meanwhile, take a deeper dive into efforts by the White House to pressure Facebook to take action against Carlson’s viral vaccine-related video in which he questioned the efficacy of COVID-19 shots.
One of the email chains (pdf) shows Flaherty writing to a Facebook staffer that “we’ve gone a million rounds on this in other contexts so pardon what may seem like dejavu,” before complaining about Facebook’s decision to merely tag Carlson’s video “that says the vaccine doesn’t work” with a label encouraging platform users to visit a COVID-19 information center rather than taking it down.
“Not for nothing but last time we did this dance, it ended in an insurrection,” Flaherty wrote in response to an email from Facebook saying that the Carlson video “does not qualify for removal under our policies.”
At the same time, the Facebook staffer added that Facebook had tagged Carlson’s video with a label encouraging people to seek out official COVID-19 information and that it was reducing its spread on the platform.
“It’s not being recommended to people, and it is being demoted,” the Facebook employee wrote.
A follow-up email from Facebook to Flaherty (pdf) indicates that Carlson’s video was demoted by 50 percent pending a seven-day fact-checking period, with the content suppression continuing even though no fact-checking had actually taken place.
A request from The Epoch Times for comment from the Fox News Channel was not immediately returned.
Landry said in a statement that the documents are evidence of “government censorship.”
“If they don’t like you, they will censor you—regardless of your political affiliation,” Landry said. “No one is safe when the First Amendment is violated.”
“Today’s reveal is yet another example of the ongoing coercive efforts by the White House to pressure social media companies into censoring American citizens,” Landry continued.
“Throughout our case, we have uncovered disturbing collusion between Big Tech and Big Government,” Landry added, referring to the lawsuit, whose defendants include President Joe Biden, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The lawsuit claims that Biden and other government officials worked with Big Tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to censor conversation around matters relating to everything from COVID-19 and election integrity to the Hunter Biden laptop story, doing so under the guise of battling “misinformation.”
The two Republican-led states accuse Biden and other officials named in the lawsuit of “falsely” attacking the Hunter Biden laptop story as “disinformation.”
The story, which was first published by the New York Post in October 2020, detailed the contents of a laptop linked to Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son. The laptop was abandoned in a Delaware computer repair shop and included compromising pictures and emails regarding allegedly corrupt foreign business deals.
Twitter labeled the story as “potentially harmful” and locked the New York Post’s main Twitter account while also blocking Twitter users from publishing the link to the story.
GOP to Investigate ‘Weaponization of the Federal Government’
It comes as House Republicans have pledged to investigate allegations of collusion between federal agencies and private companies, and to do so, they’re looking to establish a subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the federal government.
Republicans have put forward a House rules package, which on Monday was approved in a House vote and now faces an uphill battle in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and which includes a proposal to create a House Judiciary select subcommittee on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government.”
The proposal for the subcommittee comes after Republicans recently signaled that they want a top-to-bottom investigation of the FBI after the “Twitter Files” disclosed that the agency pressured Twitter to censor Americans’ free speech.
Incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has suggested that the FBI needs to be investigated in the same way it was in the 1970s, when the Church Committee investigated abuses by the CIA, FBI, Internal Revenue Service, and the National Security Agency.
The committee, led by then-Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), revealed the now-infamous CIA MKULTRA program, which involved the drugging and torture of American citizens in experimentation on mind control.
“We’ve been looking at a Church-style committee to look at this,” Jordan told Just the News on Dec. 21.
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.