COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold walk into a bar, and the bartender can’t help but crack a joke. Little did citizens know, however, that the Biden administration was tracking these laugh lines for censorship, alongside other views it deemed neither funny nor helpful.
Recently, “The Hill” revealed the release of the “Facebook Files,” exposing a concerted effort by the Biden administration to censor not just false information, but also true information and jokes that its functionaries found bothersome. This revelation comes after months of concern over government censorship and “censorship by surrogate,” where corporate allies were being used to indirectly do what the government could not do directly.
Facebook had previously refused to divulge its own files on government censorship efforts, but that changed when the House Judiciary Committee moved to hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in contempt of Congress. The Facebook Files confirmed suspicions that the government was pressuring the company to silence critics and dissenting voices.
Similar to Twitter’s experiences with the FBI, Facebook executives expressed concerns about the overwhelming pressure from the government to censor citizens. Even satirical and comedy sites were reportedly targeted for removal.
One notable incident involved a humorous meme posted by a user named Timothy McComas on Facebook. The meme featured actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from the film “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” accompanied by a witty caption about COVID-19 vaccines. This post caught the attention of Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser to Biden who was overseeing COVID-19 policy. Slavitt was outraged by the meme’s popularity, believing it undermined confidence in vaccines, and pushed for its removal.
At the same time, the White House was putting pressure on Facebook to remove posts critical of COVID-19 vaccines and pandemic measures, such as questions about mask efficacy, natural immunities, and the impact on children.
Despite having a censorship partnership in place, President Joe Biden continued to accuse Big Tech of “killing people” by not censoring more citizens, even though many of the censored individuals had raised valid concerns about the origins of the virus and vaccine hesitancy.
The House investigation uncovered numerous grants given to academic and private groups to blacklist and target individuals with opposing views, including those sharing true information. Government agencies were also involved in censoring citizens, as evidenced by efforts to extend regulatory authority over “cognitive infrastructure” to build “resilience to misinformation and disinformation.”
The administration demanded the removal of “malinformation” based on fact but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate. Government-funded groups even claimed that true stories could fuel vaccine hesitancy, including “worrisome jokes.”
While the Biden administration and its allies believed censoring humor and true information would serve their narrative, history has shown that jokes can be a powerful tool to expose abuses of power and censorship. Humor has long been used to highlight the absurdity of such efforts.
As the debate over censorship continues, the tension between free speech and public health concerns remains a critical issue. The struggle to strike the right balance between information dissemination and censorship is ongoing, and the revelations in the Facebook Files shed light on the complexities involved.
In conclusion, the Facebook Files reveal the Biden administration’s efforts to censor not just false information but also true information and humor it deemed problematic. The battle between free speech and public health interests rages on, and as citizens, it is essential to remain vigilant in safeguarding our right to express ideas and opinions freely.