COMPASS: The Censorship-Industrial Complex Revealed

May 7th, 2024

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The Senate is still struggling through its reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, while the House waits to see if Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene will make good on her promise to call a vote on the motion to vacate the House Speaker.

If you missed it last week, however, the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government released their interim staff report on what the committees call the censorship-industrial complex – that is, the hand-in-glove relationship between the country’s largest speech platform and government partisans.

The report contains reams of internal emails from the Biden White House, where officials openly pressure and threaten companies like Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and Amazon to censor or throttle disfavored speech and instead promote government talking points. 

The worst cases of censorship are related to COVID-19 and include examples of the following:

  • Amazon’s bookstore modifying its content moderation policy at the request of the White House;
  • Facebook employees censoring posts related to the COVID lab-leak theory “because we were under pressure from the [Biden] administration;” 
  • YouTube/Google sharing a draft policy proposal to censor more content around vaccines with the White House, asking for “any feedback” before it was finalized;
  • The White House aggressively pressuring Facebook to go after posts and accounts from Tucker Carlson and the New York Post; 
  • The White House demanding YouTube and other platforms act as their personal advertising service, sending “suggested language” to companies for how to amplify the administration’s message around vaccines.

The White House also leaned heavily into the so-called “independent” disinformation monitors, illustrating the link between these outfits and the government’s preferred ends. Senior White House officials including former Senior Pandemic Advisor Andy Slavitt and Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty repeatedly harangued Facebook executives to take action against the “Disinformation Dozen” identified by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) – a UK-based think tank with corporate leadership ties to the Democratic-aligned think tank Center for American Progress, and the DOD-linked Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. 

While Facebook staff privately complained that there was very little evidence to support CCDH’s claims that “12 people are responsible for 73% of online vaccine misinformation on Facebook,” the company eventually complied. They sent Biden Surgeon General Vivek Murthy detailed overviews of policy changes the company was making to target and censor the requested accounts, and the category of vaccine content, generally. 

Perhaps most galling is a July 2021 internal Facebook memo which characterizes for senior management the specific pressures the company was receiving from the White House, details of which can be found starting on page 42 of the report. Specifically, the Biden Administration wanted Facebook to:

  • “Remove true information” about vaccine side effects;
  • “Remove content that provides any negative information on or opinions about the vaccine without concluding that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh that information or opinion;
  • “Humorous or satirical content that suggests the vaccine isn’t safe.”

The memo also indicated it was likely the Biden White House wanted Facebook to remove “true content and criticism of the government.”

In perhaps the least surprising narrative arc of the entire report, the White House, now accustomed to getting what they wanted from the social media platforms on COVID-19, began demanding censorship activities on a whole range of topics.

The following, from page 66 of the report is worth sharing here in full: 

What is perhaps most telling about the report is that the emails and texts say the quiet part out loud: both the White House and the social media companies acknowledge that the companies don’t have to comply with the requests. But in the end, all of them do – and some, especially YouTube/Google, do so enthusiastically.

If this censorship is going to be stopped, the country’s speech cartel must be broken. The White House was only so effective in these instances because of the concentrated power of social media: Amazon, Google, and Facebook represent the primary avenues of speech, digital advertising, information sharing, and news reach in America. How they amassed this power, the federally gifted immunity shield they hide behind, and their plans to continue to throttle speech and competition should all be subject to vigorous congressional scrutiny. 

The Latest From Around The Conservative Movement 

  • Who is funding the campus Hamas protests? Investigations from Politico and Tablet
  • Biden finalizes rule opening up Obamacare to DACA recipients; in 2019, the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that opening Obamacare and Medicaid rolls to illegal aliens would cost taxpayers an estimated $4,600 per illegal alien.

One More Thing…

The work of Tom Jones and the American Accountability Foundation is keeping Biden nominees on their toes. Jones and the team at AAF has uncovered that Assistant Attorney General, Kristen Clarke, likely lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee about a previous domestic violence arrest – details from Mary Margaret Olohan at the Daily Signal. Sen. Mike Lee, a member of the powerful Senate panel, has already called for her resignation