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January 16, 2023

A Smoking Gun of Government Speech Suppression

Recently released emails between the Biden administration and Big Tech show a concerted effort to suppress speech that often turned out to be true.

“I will always fight back against unelected bureaucrats who seek to indoctrinate the people of this state by violating our constitutional right to free and open debate.”

So said Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey upon releasing documents last week appearing to show that senior-level Biden bureaucrats colluded with Facebook and other Big Tech companies to violate the First Amendment rights of the American people. The documents are part of the Missouri v. Biden court case, which alleges this coordinated effort to suppress speech.

An email dated March 21, 2021, from an unnamed Facebook staffer to then-senior Biden COVID-19 advisor Andy Slavitt and White House director of digital strategy Rob Flaherty is as close to a smoking gun as can be imagined. The email reads in part:

You also asked us about our levers for reducing virality of vaccine hesitancy content. As you know, in addition to removing vaccine misinformation, we have been focused on reducing the virality of content discouraging vaccines that does not contain actionable information. This is often-true content, which we allow at the post level because it is important for people to be able to discuss both their personal experiences and concerns about the vaccine, but it can be framed as sensation, alarmist, or shocking.

“Reducing the virality,” eh? Sounds like a stifling of speech to us. And at the behest of the White House. The staffer continued: “We’ll remove these Groups, Pages, and Accounts when they are disproportionately promoting this sensationalized content. More on this front as we proceed to implement.”

Less than a month later, Flaherty seemed frantic when he appeared to express dissatisfaction with Facebook’s efforts at suppression, telling the company that the utterances of Fox News host Tucker Carlson and contributor Tomi Lahren were at odds with the White House’s official vaccine narrative. Written English clearly isn’t a strength of Flaherty’s, but his intent is unmistakable:

The top post about vaccines today is tucker [sic] Carlson saying they don’t work. Yesterday was Tomi Lehren [sic] saying she won’t take one. This is exactly why I want to know what ‘Reduction’ actually looks like — if ‘reduction’ means ‘pumping our most vaccine hesitant audience with tucker [sic] Carlson saying it doesn’t work’ then … I’m not sure it’s reduction!“

But wait. There’s more. The White House remains "concerned that Youtube [sic] is ‘funneling’ people into hesitance and intensifying people’s hesitancy,” the grammatically challenged Flaherty told Google staff in an April 22, 2021, email. “We certainly recognize that removing content that is unfavorable to the cause of increasing vaccine adoption is not a realistic — or even good — solution.”

Flaherty added that combating vaccine hesitancy (read: forcing vaccination) “is a concern that is shared at the highest (and I mean highest) levels of the WH [White House],” which would seem to be reference to either Joe Biden or perhaps Dr. Jill Biden herself.

A month later, in May, Flaherty was at it again, this time scolding Facebook’s Instagram platform for allowing “bad information” to appear on its search function. He called this “one of the easy, low-bar things you guys do to make people like me think you’re taking action.”

Taking into account all this interference, and coupling it with Twitter’s own incriminating internal communications, and with the FBI’s payment to Twitter of more than $3 million to suppress news about Hunter Biden, we get a distinct sense that the federal government is acting in violation of the First Amendment. For this reason, Missouri v. Biden bears watching.

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