A new report indicates that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coordinated with a number of big tech companies to suppress criticism of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to internal communications obtained by America First Legal, CDC officials were in regular contact with employees at Twitter, Facebook and Google for a period of at least six months. Starting in December 2020, these officials communicated about how to best combat “vaccine misinformation” on social media.
While the stated goal of this CDC-big tech coordination was to target and censor false information about COVID vaccines; some of the released emails show that these policing efforts often led to the suppression of legitimate “public health messaging.”
In April 2021, for example, a CDC official wrote to Facebook that the “algorithms that Facebook and other social media networks are apparently using to screen out posting by sources of vaccine misinformation are also apparently screening out valid public health messaging, including [Wyoming] Health communications.”
Another email shows that a senior CDC official spoke at Google’s 2020 “Trusted Media Summit,” a conference “for journalists, fact-checkers, researchers and others who work in the area of fact-checking, verification, media literacy, and otherwise fighting misinformation.”
When one of the organizers of the Google conference asked the CDC official for permission to post her address online, the official declined and said she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
As an internal CDC memo also shows, Facebook gave the CDC a $15 million ad credit on their platforms to “support the agency’s messages on Facebook, and extend the reach of COVID-19-related content, including messages of vaccines, social distancing, travel, and other priority communication messages.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said the company has been open about its coordination with public health agencies “to address health misinformation,” but that it is currently assessing whether its “misinformation policy is still appropriate now that the pandemic has evolved.”
Nick Clegg, Meta’s President of Global Affairs, admitted that the company’s crackdown on vaccine skepticism had led them to remove content from their platforms on an “unprecedented scale,” and that they were now considering whether to amend their policies on “health misinformation.”