“Facebook Files” released on Tuesday revealed more evidence that the Biden administration pressured Facebook to censor the accounts of individuals included in the so-called “Disinformation Dozen,” a list of people who opposed the government’s Covid-19 narrative and vaccine-related policies.
Representative Jim Jordan (Republican-Ohio) released the documents on X, formerly Twitter, as part of an ongoing investigation launched in February by the US House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Weaponisation of the Federal Government, which he chairs.
The documents released on Tuesday revealed that the White House pressured Facebook to censor or remove the accounts of the “Disinformation Dozen”, often directly citing the Centre for Countering Digital Hate’s (CCDH) “Disinformation Dozen” report, published in March 2021.
CCDH is a nonprofit organization that claims it stops “the spread of online hate and disinformation.”
The CCDH report urged social media platforms to “act on twelve leading online anti-vaxxers,” claiming they were responsible for 65 per cent of “anti-vaccine content circulating on social media platforms.”
Figures listed among the “Disinformation Dozen” include Robert F. Kennedy Jr, chairman on leave from Children’s Health Defence (CHD), Dr Joseph Mercola and Ty and Charlene Bollinger, founders of The Truth About Vaccines and The Truth About Cancer websites.
Jordan tweeted that CCDH faces a September 29 deadline to respond to a congressional subpoena “to determine its role in the censorship regime.”
Previously, the subcommittee “demanded documents from Facebook and the Biden White House.”
CCDH, previously the subject of a “Twitter Files” release, has been referred to as a “dark money” group – a statement repeated by Kennedy during contentious testimony before the Weaponization Subcommittee on July 20.
Investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker, who in July released “Twitter Files” about CCDH, told The Defender, “I’m not surprised that internal Facebook files find that Imran Ahmed’s Centre for Countering Digital Hate was just making things up. That’s exactly what Imran Ahmed has always done, first in the UK and now in the States.”
Thacker also said: “Ahmed is leading a campaign run by corporate liberals. He first attacked the UK left on behalf of the corporate arm of the Labour Party. He is now attacking any perceived enemies of the corporate arm of the Democratic Party in the United States. I will have more to say in an upcoming investigation.”
Ahmed is CEO of CCDH and previously was connected to the U.’s Labour Party.
Jordan said the latest “Facebook Files,” which came from internal Facebook documents obtained by the House Judiciary Committee and the Weaponization Subcommittee, “show the Biden Admin and foreign activists wanted Americans censored.”
“The UK-based Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) claimed that @RobertKennedyJr & 11 others were responsible for 65 per cent ‘of anti-vaccine content circulating on social media,’” Jordan tweeted. “But CCDH’s absurd claim about the so-called ‘Disinformation Dozen’ was itself disinformation.”
According to Jordan, “Facebook knew the actual number was closer to 0.05 per cent,” and not 65 per cent. Facebook also knew that “despite attacking @RobertKennedyJr and the others as the so-called ‘Disinformation Dozen,’ a lot of their accounts were ‘completely benign.’”
Facebook was apparently aware that most of the “Disinformation Dozen” accounts in question “were just Americans expressing ‘vaccine hesitancy,’ which is often ‘not misinfo,’ even under Facebook’s policies.”
According to an excerpt of an internal Facebook email tweeted by Jordan, dated April 7, 2021, “There is an underlying assumption that all of these entities are bad … but even some of the 38 Disinfo Dozen entities were completely benign.”
Yet, “that didn’t stop the Biden White House from repeating the fake stat every chance they got. Jen Psaki repeated the CCDH’s disinformation almost verbatim to the country,” Jordan wrote, accompanied by a link to a video of a July 15, 2021, press briefing featuring then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
During that briefing, Psaki said the White House was “in regular touch with these social media platforms” and is “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation” while “helping get trusted content out there.”
“We have recommended/proposed that [Facebook] create a robust enforcement strategy,” Psaki added at the time. “There’s about 12 people who are producing 65 per cent of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. All of them remain active on Facebook, despite some even being banned on other platforms.”
Jordan wrote that within weeks of the publication of the “Disinformation Dozen” report, “Facebook employees were preparing a draft memo to Mark Zuckerberg about ‘pressure from … the White House’ to remove the Disinfo Dozen.”
This came even though they did “not believe we currently have a clear path for removal.”
Another internal Facebook email, dated July 16, 2021, appeared to express doubt regarding the accuracy of CCDH’s “65 per cent” figure, noting that “If they are misleading or incorrect, that can be damaging to (our and their shared) efforts.”
Yet, the same document noted, “It seems like these data are now being used to guide major governmental policy decisions.”
“To be clear, the Biden White House didn’t just want Facebook to censor the Disinformation Dozen’s Facebook posts. They wanted EVERYTHING censored – across all social media platforms,” Jordan wrote.
This statement was accompanied by a video of a July 2021 statement by Psaki saying, “You shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others.” These demands contradicted Facebook’s policy, which, according to Jordan, “was to ‘only do cross-platform disables for child safety and dangerous organisation violations.’”
Jordan said “Facebook got the message loud and clear. Right after Jen Psaki repeated CCDH’s false stats from the White House podium, Facebook Leadership asked for an update ASAP on how much Facebook was censoring the Disinformation Dozen.”
An internal Facebook email dated July 15, 2021, said, “The White House made a statement about these accounts and now leadership is interested in what the status is.”
Although Facebook had been censoring the “Disinformation Dozen” as early as March 2021, including removing Kennedy’s Instagram account, Facebook began “taking ‘aggressive action’ against 11 of the 12 by July,” Jordan wrote.
Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister confirmed this in a May 2021 statement.
“We reacted early and aggressively to the Covid-19 pandemic by working with health experts to update our misinformation policy to target harmful claims about Covid-19 and vaccines, including taking action against some of the accounts in the CCDH report,” McAlister told NPR.
However, the same NPR report conceded that “Facebook also disputed the methodology of the centre’s report, saying it was not clear what criteria the group used to choose the set of social media posts at which it looked.”
- The Defender report / By Prof Michael Nevradakis, based in Athens, Greece.