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House Republicans ascribes Biden behavior to speech censorship on social media as that of a ‘Cuban dictator’

‘It is the type of behavior we would expect from a Cuban dictator, not a President of the United States.’

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Joe Biden has been accused of acting like ‘a Cuban dictator’ in a letter signed by 190 House Republicans, after his administration moved to force tech companies to clamp down on coronavirus misinformation.

A letter to the president was written on Thursday by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the three top Republicans in the House – Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik.    

‘The federal government’s ongoing efforts to pressure private companies to censor speech that it disagrees with is alarming and an affront to the First Amendment,’ they wrote, in a letter obtained by Fox News.

‘It is the type of behavior we would expect from a Cuban dictator, not a President of the United States.’

On Tuesday Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, said that social media companies should be held accountable for publishing misleading information on the COVID vaccine.

She also said the administration is reviewing Section 230 – a 1990s era ruling that prevents tech firms from being held liable for their content, in the way that newspaper and magazine publishers are.  

‘Social media companies have a responsibility,’ Bedingfield said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, echoing a message that has come out of the White House this week as they try to raise the vaccination rate.  

‘We’re reviewing that and certainly they should be held accountable. 

‘I think you heard the president speak very aggressively about this. 

‘It is also the responsibility of the people creating the content. 

‘Again I go back to there are conservative news outlets creating irresponsible content sharing misinformation about the virus that’s getting shared on these platforms. 

‘So it is a big and  complicated ecosystem and everybody bears responsibility.’

Biden’s move is also being mirrored by a bill, introduced by Democrat Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Lujan, to make tech firms liable for any misinformation on their platforms which they fail to remove. The ‘misinformation’ will be defined by the Department of Health and Human Services, under their proposal.

The Health Misinformation Act was introduced on Thursday, and has no Republican support. 

In their letter, the House Republicans argue that government should not be involved in policing social media speech, pointing out that public health consensus has evolved.

Masks were originally discouraged, and the idea that the virus could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory. 

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‘This is the problem with your censorship mission,’ they wrote to Biden. 

‘Not only are you attacking the First Amendment, but your ‘truth’ might be wrong.’

The White House has been seeking help from Facebook and other social media sites since February on stopping misinformation from going viral, such as the myth that the vaccine will implant a microchip tracker.  

Joe Biden said last week that Facebook and other companies were ‘killing people’ by serving as platforms for misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

He later clarified his comments by saying that he wasn’t accusing Facebook of killing people, but that he instead wanted the company to ‘do something about the misinformation, the outrageous information about the vaccine.’

Facebook has rejected the Biden administration’s criticisms. 

In a blog post, the company said that 85 per cent of its users in the U.S. have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Facebook also said it was doing its part to help get more Americans vaccinated, such as by operating pop-up vaccine clinics in low-income and underserved communities in California and other states. 

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biden administration

Psaki Hints On Banning Social Media Users Who Post ‘Misinformation’ From All Platforms

“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.”

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested Friday that people on social media “shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others” if they post “misinformation online,” namely about COVID-19 vaccines.

“So a couple of the steps that we have, you know, that could be constructive for the public health of the country are providing for Facebook or other platforms to measure and publicly share the impact of misinformation on their platform, and the audience it’s reaching, also with the public, with all of you, to create robust enforcement strategies that bridge their properties and provide transparency about rules, you shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others, if you, for providing misinformation out there,” Psaki told reporters during a White House briefing.

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She added: “Taking faster action against harmful posts, as you all know, information travels quite quickly.”

When Psaki was asked about the White House’s relationship with Facebook, she said that the federal government doesn’t block anything on Facebook or other social media platforms.

“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,” Psaki said. “Our point is that there is information that is leading to people not taking the vaccine.”

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other Big Tech firms have drawn condemnation over their policies around COVID-19 and what can or cannot be published.

Psaki’s Friday suggestion that social media companies ban people over posts they share on other social media websites drew widespread condemnation from commentators on social media. Some said Psaki’s comments were evidence that the Biden administration is colluding with, or outsourcing to, Big Tech firms to censor people online.

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“Free Speech is Not an Absolute Human Right” – Facebook Board Member

“free speech is not an absolute human right.”

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A Facebook Oversight Board member said that free speech is not “an absolute” right and should be weighed against “other human rights” when determining if content should be censored by the tech giant.

Board member Helle Thorning Schmidt, who is also a former Danish Prime Minister, said Thursday that “free speech is not an absolute human right.”

“It has to be balanced with other human rights,” she said.

“Free speech is not an absolute human right,” says Helle Thorning Schmidt, member of Facebook’s Oversight Board and former PM of Denmark. “It has to be balanced with other human rights.”

How does that translate to content moderation? It must strike a balance, find a middle. pic.twitter.com/E5reaQ2bnk— POLITICOEurope (@POLITICOEurope) July 15, 2021

The Facebook Oversight Board, which consists of 20 members from around the world, was created last year to help corporate executives to distance themselves from decisions considered to be politically.

The board previously recommended that Facebook continue its ban placed the account of former President Donald Trump, which was initially imposed following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

Although US courts have found the right to free speech isn’t absolute, the US has strong legal and cultural support for the free distribution of information. Other countries have starkly different standards, some even mandating digital censorship.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars the government from “abridging the freedom of speech.” However, private companies are not bound by that provision. 

Facebook and other tech companies are also protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which guarantees they will not be held liable for users’ posts while allowing them to restrict content deemed “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.”

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Last week, Trump filed a lawsuit against Facebook, alleging that it censored content at the direction of government officials within the Democratic Party. Because of this, he argues that the First Amendment should apply to the social media platform’s content moderating because the company would then be a “government actor.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday at a press briefing that the Biden administration has been “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation” about the coronavirus and vaccines.

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