As if the announcement earlier this week about how the White House had plans to censor text messages for supposed COVID vaccine “misinformation” wasn’t terrifying enough, press secretary Jen Psaki noting during Thursday’s press briefing that the Biden administration was “flagging problematic [COVID] posts for Facebook” was even worse.
During today’s press briefing, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy was front and center on asking Psaki to clarify the Biden admin’s position, flustering her by correctly pointing out that what the White House was doing was, in effect, “spying” on private citizens. During the exchange, Psaki responded to Doocy’s pointed questioning by drawing equivalencies between the White House’s interactions with the press corps and their communications with social media platforms, apparently not understanding that there is a difference between the White House being obligated to communicate with the press versus them trawling the social media accounts of private citizens for alleged misinformation.
In the same back and forth, Psaki played the COVID shame game with Doocy, suggesting people should be more concerned that COVID “misinformation” on social media has allegedly caused people to die than they should be with the federal government targeting private citizens in a Big Brother-type fashion. In other words, she justified the Biden administration’s position on working with social media companies to censor private citizens by declaring it was all in an effort to save lives.
It was towards the middle to end of their exchange, however, where Doocy cornered Psaki, pointing out that last year Dr. Fauci was saying things that he later flip-flopped on, like about the need to wear a mask. Would the White House be flagging those old FB posts quoting Fauci to get FB to remove them? he asked her. Psaki’s answer, which you’ll see below, was the perfect set-up for Doocy to make a larger point about how the science sometimes evolves and that things from months or even a year ago that were flagged on Facebook for misinformation are now considered plausible and okay to post (like the speculation over the origins of COVID). “Is there any concern that the things you are trying to block or have taken down might some day turn out to be [accurate]?” he asked her. She defaulted to the “responsibility to save lives” answer instead of answering the question.
Instead of continuing to piecemeal what was said between the two, here’s the full transcript with the video below it:
Doocy: “Speaking of misinformation and the announcement from yesterday, for how long has the administration been spying on people’s Facebook profiles looking for vaccine misinformation?”
Psaki: “Well, that was quite a loaded and inaccurate question, which I would refute ..”
Doocy: “Inaccurate how?”
Psaki: “Well, Peter, first of all, as you know we’re on a regular touch with a range of media outlets [Doocy says something intelligible in the background] as we are in regular touch with social media platforms. This is publicly open information, people sharing information online. Just as you are all reporting information on your news stations.”
Doocy: “But – okay, so these 12 people who you have on a list, 12 individuals. Do they know that somebody at the Surgeon General’s office is going through their profile?”
Psaki: “I’m happy to get you the citation of where that comes from. There’s no secret list. I will tell you that these are people who are sharing information on public platforms on Facebook, information that is traveling, is inaccurate. Our biggest concern here, and I frankly think it should be your biggest concern is the number of people who are dying around the country because they’re getting misinformation that is leading them to not take a vaccine. [A lot of people] are being impacted by misinformation.”
Doocy: “The big concern though, I think, for a lot of people on Facebook is that now this is Big Brother watching you.”
Psaki: “They’re more concerned about that than people dying across the country because of a pandemic where misinformation is traveling on social media platforms? That feels unlikely to me, if you have the data to back that up, I’m happy to discuss it.”
Doocy: “Okay, and about things on Facebook, I looked this morning. There are videos of Dr. Fauci from 2020 before anybody had a vaccine, and he’s out there saying there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. So is the administration going to contact Facebook and ask them to take that down?”
Psaki: “Well, first, I think what Dr. Fauci has said himself…is that science evolves, information evolves, and we make that available in a public way to the American people. I have never seen any data to suggest that the vaccines cause infertility. That is information that is irresponsible.”
[Crosstalk as other reporters try to chime in as Doocy fights to get in a final question]
Doocy: “About the science evolving, Facebook used to block people from posting that COVID may have originated from a lab, that is something that this President now admits now is a possibility. So is there any concern that the things you are trying to block or have taken down might some day turn out to be [accurate]?”
Psaki: “We don’t take anything down. We don’t block anything. Facebook and any private sector company makes decisions about what information should be on their platform. Our point is that there is information that is leading to people not taking the vaccine and people are dying as a result. And we have a responsibility as a public health matter to raise that issue, a responsibility we all have, the government, media, platforms, public messengers, to give accurate information.”
Did you notice how at one point she used the term “public platform” to describe Facebook? Look for that to be a bone of contention among lawmakers in DC in the coming weeks.
Peter Doocy just destroyed the White House’s calls for censorship of “disinformation” on live TV.
Psaki did not see this one coming.
Watch the entire video. pic.twitter.com/ITPrMfdPFW
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 16, 2021
At another point during the briefing, Psaki made matters worse by suggesting that if a person was banned on one platform there should be across-the-board banning on all social media platforms, as if that’s something that the White House should even be suggesting, much less involved in.
As I noted yesterday, Doocy’s track record on getting Psaki to make key admissions like this is pretty impressive. I’ve lost count on the number of times he’s done so, but we’ve documented many of them here.