psaki declares: “there’s about 12 people who are producing 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.”

Psaki Condemns ‘Failed Ideology’ of Cuban Government, Reveals WH Flagging ‘Misinformation’ for FB
Evan Craighead, RT.com, Jun 15 2021

Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s Thursday news conference touched on a variety of topics, including the position of the Biden administration regarding recent protests in Cuba, as well as Washington’s ongoing effort to combat “misinformation” and control the narrative when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. When questioned about Cuban protesters’ grievances, Psaki made no mention of the US’ “genocidal” embargo and contended to reporters that the current situation on the island is a direct result of communism’s shortcomings. She said:

Communism is a failed ideology, and we certainly believe that. It has failed the people of Cuba. They deserve freedom. They deserve a government that supports them, whether that is making sure they have health and medical supplies, access to vaccines, or whether they have economic opportunity and prosperity. Instead, this has been a government, an authoritarian communist regime, that has repressed its people and has failed the people of Cuba. Hence, we’re seeing them in the streets.

Psaki’s condemnation of communism came just a day after she seemingly avoided mentioning the ideology by name. When asked if Cubans were protesting because they “hate communism,” the White House press secretary asserted that Cuban are “opposed to the oppression” and the “mismanagement” of the country’s government. She told reporters on Wednesday:

We certainly support their right to protest. We support their efforts to speak out against their treatment in Cuba.

Psaki’s change in rhetoric threw some netizens for a loop, and made many question what kind of brand of “freedom” the US would bring to the island nation it slapped with crippling sanctions. During the same news conference on Thursday, the White House press secretary revealed that the administration has teamed up with Facebook, and is now flagging so-called “misinformation” while also tailoring content to align with federal COVID-19 vaccination efforts, noting that said content is “boosted” or promoted for more exposure on Facebook.. She did not expound on White House criteria for determining what makes a social media post “problematic.” Psaki noted:

We’ve increased disinformation research and tracking within the surgeon general’s office. We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. We’re working with doctors and medical professionals to connect to medical experts who are popular with their audiences. So, we’re helping get trusted content out there.

Psaki declared:

There’s about 12 people who are producing 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. All of them remain active on Facebook, despite some even being banned on other platforms, including Facebook — ones that Facebook owns.

Psaki’s comments quickly elicited responses from thousands of netizens who appeared both confused and surprised by the press secretary’s admission. News of the White House’s direct influence on Facebook content comes alongside the publication of US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy’s public advisory on the “urgent threat of health misinformation.” The advisory document itself sets forward a number of recommendations for those in the US, including everyday individuals, journalists, educators, researchers and the government.

Here’s the most relevant section from the White House transcript

Q Can you talk a little bit more about this request for tech companies to be more aggressive in policing misinformation? Has the administration been in touch with any of these companies and are there any actions that the federal government can take to ensure their cooperation, because we’ve seen, from the start, there’s not a lot of action on some of these platforms.

A: Sure. Well, first, we are in regular touch with these social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team, given, as Dr Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue of misinformation, specifically on the pandemic. In terms of actions, Alex, that we have taken — or we’re working to take, I should say — from the federal government: We’ve increased disinformation research and tracking within the Surgeon General’s office. We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. We’re working with doctors and medical professionals to connect — to connect medical experts with popular — with popular — who are popular with their audiences with — with accurate information and boost trusted content. So we’re helping get trusted content out there. We also created the COVID-19 — the COVID Community Corps to get factual information into the hands of local messengers, and we’re also investing, as you all have seen in the President’s, the Vice President’s, and Dr Fauci’s time in meeting with influencers who also have large reaches to a lot of these target audiences who can spread and share accurate information. You saw an example of that yesterday. I believe that video will be out Fri- — tomorrow. I think that was your question, Steve, yesterday; I did a full follow-up there. There are also proposed changes that we have made to social media platforms, including Facebook, and those specifically are four key steps:

  1. that they measure and publicly share the impact of misinformation on their platform. Facebook should provide, publicly and transparently, data on the reach of COVID-19 — COVID vaccine misinformation. Not just engagement, but the reach of the misinformation and the audience that it’s reaching. That will help us ensure we’re getting accurate information to people. This should be provided not just to researchers, but to the public so that the public knows and understands what is accurate and inaccurate.
  2. that we have recommended — proposed that they create a robust enforcement strategy that bridges their properties and provides transparency about the rules. So, about — I think this was a question asked before — there’s about 12 people who are producing 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. All of them remain active on Facebook, despite some even being banned on other platforms, including Facebook — ones that Facebook owns.
  3. it’s important to take faster action against harmful posts. As you all know, information travels quite quickly on social media platforms; sometimes it’s not accurate. And Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove harmful, violative posts — posts that will be within their policies for removal often remain up for days. That’s too long. The information spreads too quickly.
  4. we have proposed they promote quality information sources in their feed algorithm. Facebook has repeatedly shown that they have the levers to promote quality information. We’ve seen them effectively do this in their algorithm over low-quality information and they’ve chosen not to use it in this case. And that’s certainly an area that would have an impact.

So, these are certainly the proposals. We engage with them regularly and they certainly understand what our asks are.

Q And then, one of the problems with vaccines right now is that they become politicized. You guys — the White House has obviously made the calculation that it’s important to be more aggressive in confronting this information, but is there at all a concern that that could backfire and further contribute to politicization? And is there anything that you can do to prevent that at this point?

A: Well, you’re absolutely right, I should say, Alex, in that we have to be very careful and we are mindful of being quite careful of not politicizing the effectiveness of vaccines, the fact that they can save lives — young people, old people, middle-of-the-road people. It’s important for us — we’ve made a calculation to push back on misinformation. You’re right. But that’s one of the reasons, as Dr Murthy was conveying, we have empowered, engaged, funded local voices, because they are often the most trusted voices, doctors, medical experts, clergy, you know, people who are members of, civic leaders in communities. That’s where we are putting most of our resources, even as we are working to combat misinformation that’s traveling online or traveling, unfortunately, out of the mouth of elected officials from time to time.

Biden Administration Completely Kills The “It’s A Private Company So It’s Not Censorship” Argument
Caitlin Johnstone, Jul 15 2021

In what’s surely the biggest “Imagine the outrage if Trump had done that” moment to date, the Biden administration has admitted that it is giving Facebook a list of accounts to censor for spreading “disinformation” about the Covid-19 response. Press Secretary Jen Psaki told the press on Thursday:

We’ve increased disinformation research and tracking. Within the Surgeon General’s Office, we’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. We’re working with doctors and medical professionals to connect medical experts with people, who are popular with their audiences with accurate information and boost trusted content. So, we’re helping get trusted content out there.

Psaki told the White House press corps that the administration has a list of accounts who produce most of the anti-vaccine information on Facebook, which civil libertarians are decrying as an obviously authoritarian government overreach. Glenn Greenwald responded on Twitter:

The most common argument you’ll hear from those who support monopolistic social media giants controlling speech on their platforms is that these are private corporations, not the government, so it doesn’t count as censorship. Whenever you object to Silicon Valley oligarchs exerting total control over the political speech of billions of people, mainstream liberals instantly transform into an army of Ayn Rands defending the private property rights of those companies. The fact that these platforms are inseparably interwoven with the highest branches of the US federal government kills such arguments stone dead. And if you were paying attention, that argument was already dead. All of these online platforms use censorship and algorithm manipulation to hide undesirable political speech from the mainstream public in direct collaboration with government and government-tied institutions. In 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein threatened social media platforms that alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election meant they needed to start utilizing more censorship or else face consequences, saying:

You created these platforms, and they are being misused. And you have to be the ones to do something about it, or we will.

That same year, representatives from top internet platforms were brought before congress and told they needed to adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment “to prevent the fomenting of discord,” because “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words.” In the lead-up to the 2020 election, online platforms were openly coordinating with US government agencies to censor speech believed to compromise election integrity. Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world where a third of Americans regularly get their news, openly enlisted the government-and-plutocrat-funded imperialist narrative management firm, the Atlantic Council, to help it determine what content to censor and what to boost. Facebook has stated that if its “fact checkers” like The Atlantic Council deem a page or domain guilty of spreading false information, it will “dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.” Google, which owns YouTube, has been financially intertwined with US intelligence agencies since its very inception when it received research grants from the CIA and NSA. It pours massive amounts of money into federal lobbying and DC think tanks, has a cozy relationship with the NSA, and has been a military-intelligence contractor from the beginning. Glenn Greenwald replied to former congressman Justin Amash’s comment on Psaki’s incendiary admission:

In a corporatist system of government, where there is no separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. The actual government as it actually exists is censoring the speech not just of its own people, but people around the world. If US law had placed as much emphasis on the separation of corporation and state as it had on the separation of church and state, the country would be unrecognizably different from what we see today. Only infantile narcissists and power-worshipping bootlickers want the most powerful government on earth controlling what people are allowed to say to each other about a virus response which affects everybody, and only those with no sense of self-preservation entrust worldwide human speech to an alliance of government agencies and powerful tech plutocrats. We cannot keep heading in this direction.

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