WASHINGTON (LifeSiteNews) — President Joe Biden urged both traditional and social media on Thursday to crack down on supposed “misinformation and disinformation” pertaining to COVID-19, again highlighting an informal relationship between Big Tech and the federal government that could have legal implications for the battle against online censorship.
The president made the remark during a briefing on the deployment of military personnel to help relieve the hospital staffing shortages exacerbated by COVID-19 vaccine mandates, which the president supports.
NOW – Biden: "I make a special appeal to social media companies and media outlets — please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that's on your shows. It has to stop."pic.twitter.com/NeVU74web3
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) January 13, 2022
“Unfortunately, while our military is stepping up, as they always do, there are others sitting on the sidelines and, worse, standing in the way,” Biden said. “If you’ve haven’t [sic] gotten vaccinated, do it. Personal choice impacts us all — our hospitals, our country.”
“I make a special appeal to social media companies and media outlets: Please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that’s on your shows,” he implored. “It has to stop. COVID-19 is one of the most formidable enemies America has ever faced. We’ve got to work together, not against each other.”
The administration has not been shy about telling social networks what speech it wants them to suppress. In July, Biden accused Facebook of “killing people,” and his press secretary Jenn Psaki admitted the White House was “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” called on the company to “create a robust enforcement strategy,” and declared that being banned for “misinformation” on one platform should be reciprocal across other platforms.
Some argue that such admissions from government officials complicate social networks’ presumed status as mere private entities exercising their own speech and property rights, by effectively turning them into extensions of the government, which is constitutionally barred from infringing on freedom of speech.
On July 11, author Vivek Ramaswamy made the case in the Wall Street Journal that this argument has a sound basis in Supreme Court precedent that government “may not induce, encourage, or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish” (Norwood v. Harrison, 1973), and that state-issued immunity, threats of prosecution or “adverse regulatory action,” “willful participa[tion] in joint activity,” or even just “significant encouragement” can suffice to turn private censorship decisions into the functional equivalent of state action.
It remains to be seen whether the courts will be persuaded that the Biden administration’s various urgings to Big Tech rise to that level, but other recent comments by the administration and its allies have inadvertently demonstrated a pitfall of turning social media into medical misinformation police.
This month, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention abruptly halved its recommended isolation period for the COVID-infected, a change Director Rochelle Walensky said “had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate.” White House COVID-19 czar Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted “if you look at the children who are hospitalized, many of them are hospitalized with Covid, as opposed to because of Covid.” Former U.S. Food & Drug Administration commissioner and current Pfizer board member Scott Gottlieb admitted that “cloth masks aren’t gonna provide a lot of protection.”
Conservatives have argued for all three of these positions over the past two years, for which the administration and its allies accused them of peddling “misinformation.”