As concerns grew over Biden administration push to protect profit interests of drug manufacturers, Facebook too began pushing back, resisting pressure to censor facts about Covid-19 and inefficacy of the controversial vaccines on offer around the world.
By August 2021, “Facebook rejected the findings of the ‘Disinformation Dozen’ report and the White House’s concerns,” according to Representative Jim Jordan (Republican-Ohio), because “‘There isn’t any evidence’ to support its claims” and also due to “the small sample used in CCDH’s analysis,” which was “in no way representative of the hundreds of millions of posts that people have shared about Covid-19 vaccines.”
Yet, “Facebook continued to ‘monitor’ all of the so-called Disinformation Dozen accounts, trying to find a way to censor more,” Jordan, who chaired US House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Weaponisation of the Federal Government, wrote, even though “The ‘majority’ of the accounts in question were not spreading misinformation.”
According to an internal Facebook document dated July 23, 2021, the platform “also secretly demoted affiliated accounts by varying degrees to expire at different times,” including the Twitter accounts of Kennedy and CHD.
In July 2021, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s president of global affairs and former deputy prime minister of the UK, met with the Office of the Surgeon General. According to Jordan, “Clegg had to report back to the Surgeon General’s Office – did Facebook censor the Disinformation Dozen to try to get the Biden Admin to back off?”
“The answer: Yes, but ‘nothing will be persuasive to that crew,’” Jordan tweeted, referencing an internal Facebook document from July 23, 2021.
“Facebook’s censorship of the Disinformation Dozen” did not stop there, Jordan said.
“You can never satisfy the Biden censorship regime. President Biden himself helped ensure that CCDH’s disinformation had ‘unrelenting staying power,’” Jordan wrote, referencing a July 26, 2021, internal Facebook email from “Policy Comms.”
Jordan noted that by August 2021, “CCDH’s false Disinfo Dozen stat was ‘routinely cited in the press,’” as stated in an internal Facebook document dated August 3, 2021.
NPR’s May 2021 report on the “Disinformation Dozen,” for instance, stated that “Now the vaccine rollout is reaching a critical stage in which most adults who want the vaccine have gotten it, but many others are holding out, these 12 influential social media users stand to have an outsize impact on the outcome.”
According to NPR, this “provokes the question: Why have social media platforms only recently begun cracking down on their falsehoods?”
The same report also stated that while “Anti-vaccine activists claim censorship,” “None of that is true,” and contained remarks from John Gregory, deputy health editor for “fact-checking” firm NewsGuard, which works with CCDH to target “medical misinformation.”
An editor’s note accompanying the NPR report disclosed that “Facebook is among NPR’s financial supporters.”
Separately, a July 2021 Forbes article called for Facebook to “De-platform The Disinformation Dozen.” The article was written by Steven Salzberg, Bloomberg distinguished professor of biomedical engineering, computer science and biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University.
In July, Forbes published a story that “fact-checked” “Jim Jordan’s claims Biden pressured Facebook.”
“That’s how the censorship regime works: Foreign activists at the CCDH feed false info to the Biden White House. The Biden Admin then uses the full weight of the federal [government] to coerce Facebook to censor Americans, Biden’s critics and political opponents, and the truth,” Jordan wrote.
In response to Jordan’s “Facebook Files” thread on X, Elon Musk, the platform’s owner, tweeted “Interesting.” In July, X Corp sued CCDH, alleging it “embarked on a scare campaign” to deter advertisers from the platform by “engaging in a series of unlawful acts designed to improperly gain access to protected X Corp data.”
In response, MSNBC published an August 1 op-ed by Ahmed, claiming CCDH “has been at the forefront of cataloguing and reporting on the hate proliferating on the platform owned by Elon Musk.”
In July, “Twitter Files” released by Thacker showed CCDH worked with Twitter to censor CHD, Kennedy and other individuals included in the “Disinformation Dozen” list.
Thacker told The Defender in July that CCDH “sprang out of nowhere in late 2017 or early 2018,” soon after Ahmed left his previous role at the UK’s Labour Party. He added that he was unable to ascertain who funds the organisation, characterising CCDH as a “dark money group.”
A report published by GreenMedInfo later in July shed some light on CCDH’s funders, including the Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation. And despite Ahmed’s claims that CCDH has never taken government money, the report also found at least two of its funders have received UK government funding.
CCDH’s website does not list the members of its board of directors. However, an archived version of its website from February 2022 lists Kirsty McNeill as a board member. She is also a member of the UK Council of the European Council of Foreign Relations, funded by entities including the Open Society Foundations, the UN and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Another CCDH board member as of February 2022, Simon Clark, was affiliated with the Center for American Progress, which proposed a “comprehensive Covid-19 vaccine plan,” including “a massive vaccination campaign” involving “medical experts, sports stars, celebrities and community leaders,” aiming to change people’s opinions.
Thacker told The Defender, “Congress needs to find out which Democratic Party interests are backing Ahmed financially. Is it corporate donors or wealthy political contributors aligned with the party?”
“We also need to see if he has any direct ties to Nick Clegg at Facebook. Ahmed was a senior adviser to British members of parliament while Clegg was deputy prime minister,” Thacker added.
In March 2022, Murthy, Psaki and other members of the Biden administration threatened social media platforms with regulatory action, including potential antitrust proceedings and loss of liability protection Communications Decency Act Section 230 if they did not turn over Covid-19 “misinformation” data to the White House.
Several lawsuits are now pending in federal courts alleging that the White House and members of the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to suppress speech that was not aligned with establishment Covid-19 and vaccine-related policies – and the users posting such content.
These cases include the Missouri et al. v. Biden et al. and Kennedy et al. v. Biden et al. censorship lawsuits, which were consolidated in July and are pending before the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and Kennedy v. Google et al, alleging YouTube censored Covid-19 vaccine-related content posted by Kennedy.
The Defender on occasion posts content related to Children’s Health Defense’s nonprofit mission that features Mr Kennedy’s views on the issues CHD and The Defender regularly cover. In keeping with Federal Election Commission rules, this content does not represent an endorsement of Mr Kennedy, who is on leave from CHD and is seeking the Democratic nomination for president of the US.
- The Defender report / By Prof Michael Nevradakis, based in Athens, Greece