The past several months have revealed a huge amount of government pressure on social media platforms to censor public content. New emails revealed through Missouri v. Biden show the administration went further, urging Facebook to censor private communications on its WhatsApp messaging service too.
Facebook (now known as Meta) has censored its private messaging app before. Ahead of the Brazilian presidential election in 2018, WhatsApp banned more than 100,000 accounts amid scare stories that the platform was being used by supporters of populist candidate Jair Bolsonaro to spread “misinformation.”
According to emails obtained through discovery in Missouri v. Biden, a multi-state lawsuit accusing the Biden Administration of colluding with tech companies to suppress First Amendment rights in the U.S., the White House also sought censorship on WhatsApp. Multiple emails beginning in March 2021 show Biden Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty pressing Facebook executives to censor Americans on WhatsApp.
Via Silent Lunch:
Flaherty wanted to know what they were doing to reduce harm on the messaging app. Seemingly dissatisfied with earlier explanations, on March 22, 2021, he wrote, “If you can’t see the message, I’m genuinely curious—how do you know what kinds of messages you’ve cut down on?”
Facebook told the White House that it sought to limit virality on its platform in general, which would in turn choke off the flow of “misinformation” to reach a wider audience.
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