New 'Facebook Files' Add to Evidence Biden Pressured Facebook to Censor 'Disinformation Dozen'

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Originally published on www.childrenshealthdefense.org by Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D.

Documents released Tuesday by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) revealed more evidence that the White House pressured Facebook to censor or remove the accounts of the "Disinformation Dozen," often directly citing the Center for Countering Digital Hate's "Disinformation Dozen" report, published in March 2021.

"Facebook Files" released on Tuesday revealed more evidence that the Biden administration pressured Facebook to censor the accounts of individuals included in the so-called "Disinformation Dozen," a list of people who opposed the government's COVID-19 narrative and vaccine-related policies.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) released the documents on X, formerly Twitter, as part of an ongoing investigation launched in February by the U.S. House of Representatives' Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which he chairs.

The documents released Tuesday revealed that the White House pressured Facebook to censor or remove the accounts of the "Disinformation Dozen,", often directly citing the Center for Countering Digital Hate's (CCDH) "Disinformation Dozen" report, published in March 2021.

CCDH is a nonprofit organization that claims it stops "the spread of online hate and disinformation."

The CCDH report urged social media platforms to "act on twelve leading online anti-vaxxers," claiming they were responsible for 65% of "anti-vaccine content circulating on social media platforms."

Figures listed among the "Disinformation Dozen" include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman on leave from Children's Health Defense (CHD), Dr. Joseph Mercola, and Ty and Charlene Bollinger, founders of The Truth About Vaccines and The Truth About Cancer websites.

Jordan tweeted that CCDH faces a Sept. 29 deadline to respond to a congressional subpoena "to determine its role in the censorship regime."

Previously, the subcommittee "demanded documents from Facebook and the Biden White House."

CCDH, previously the subject of a "Twitter Files" release, has been referred to as a "dark money" group -- a statement repeated by Kennedy during contentious testimony before the Weaponization Subcommittee on July 20.

Investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker, who in July released "Twitter Files" about CCDH, told The Defender, "I'm not surprised that internal Facebook files find that Imran Ahmed's Center for Countering Digital Hate was just making things up. That's exactly what Imran Ahmed has always done, first in the U.K. and now in the States."

Thacker also said:

"Ahmed is leading a campaign run by corporate liberals. He first attacked the U.K. left on behalf of the corporate arm of the Labour Party. He is now attacking any perceived enemies of the corporate arm of the Democratic Party in the United States. I will have more to say in an upcoming investigation."

Ahmed is CEO of CCDH and previously was connected to the U.K.'s Labour Party.

'Disinformation Dozen' list 'was itself disinformation'

Jordan said the latest "Facebook Files," which came from internal Facebook documents obtained by the House Judiciary Committee and the Weaponization Subcommittee, "show the Biden Admin and foreign activists wanted Americans censored."

"The U.K.-based Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) claimed that @RobertKennedyJr & 11 others were responsible for 65% 'of anti-vaccine content circulating on social media,'" Jordan tweeted. "But CCDH's absurd claim about the so-called 'Disinformation Dozen' was itself disinformation."

According to Jordan, "Facebook knew the actual number was closer to 0.05%," and not 65%. Facebook also knew that "despite attacking @RobertKennedyJr and the others as the so-called 'Disinformation Dozen,' a lot of their accounts were 'completely benign.'"

Facebook was apparently aware that most of the "Disinformation Dozen" accounts in question "were just Americans expressing 'vaccine hesitancy,' which is often 'not misinfo,' even under Facebook's policies."

According to an excerpt of an internal Facebook email tweeted by Jordan, dated April 7, 2021, "There is an underlying assumption that all of these entities are bad … but even some of the 38 Disinfo Dozen entities were completely benign."

Yet, "that didn't stop the Biden White House from repeating the fake stat every chance they got. Jen Psaki repeated the CCDH's disinformation almost verbatim to the country," Jordan wrote, accompanied by a link to a video of a July 15, 2021, press briefing featuring then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

During that briefing, Psaki said the White House was "in regular touch with these social media platforms" and is "flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation" while "helping get trusted content out there."

"We have recommended/proposed that [Facebook] create a robust enforcement strategy," Psaki added at the time. "There's about 12 people who are producing 65 percent of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. All of them remain active on Facebook, despite some even being banned on other platforms."

Jordan wrote that within weeks of the publication of the "Disinformation Dozen" report, "Facebook employees were preparing a draft memo to Mark Zuckerberg about 'pressure from … the White House' to remove the Disinfo Dozen."

This came even though they did "not believe we currently have a clear path for removal."

Another internal Facebook email, dated July 16, 2021, appeared to express doubt regarding the accuracy of CCDH's "65%" figure, noting that "If they are misleading or incorrect, that can be damaging to (our and their shared) efforts."

Yet, the same document noted, "It seems like these data are now being used to guide major governmental policy decisions."

"To be clear, the Biden White House didn't just want Facebook to censor the Disinformation Dozen's Facebook posts. They wanted EVERYTHING censored -- across all social media platforms," Jordan wrote.

This statement was accompanied by a video of a July 2021 statement by Psaki saying, "You shouldn't be banned from one platform and not others."

These demands contradicted Facebook's policy, which, according to Jordan, "was to 'only do cross-platform disables for child safety and dangerous organization violations.'"

'Facebook got the message loud and clear'

Jordan said "Facebook got the message loud and clear. Right after Jen Psaki repeated CCDH's false stats from the White House podium, Facebook Leadership asked for an update ASAP on how much Facebook was censoring the Disinformation Dozen."

An internal Facebook email dated July 15, 2021, said, "The White House made a statement about these accounts and now leadership is interested in what the status is."

Though Facebook had been censoring the "Disinformation Dozen" as early as March 2021, including removing Kennedy's Instagram account, Facebook began "taking 'aggressive action' against 11 of the 12 by July," Jordan wrote.

Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister confirmed this in a May 2021 statement.

"We reacted early and aggressively to the COVID-19 pandemic by working with health experts to update our misinformation policy to target harmful claims about COVID-19 and vaccines, including taking action against some of the accounts in the CCDH report," McAlister told NPR.

However, the same NPR report conceded that "Facebook also disputed the methodology of the center's report, saying it was not clear what criteria the group used to choose the set of social media posts at which it looked."

By August 2021, "Facebook rejected the findings of the 'Disinformation Dozen' report and the White House's concerns," according to Jordan, because "'There isn't any evidence' to support its claims" and also due to "the small sample used in CCDH's analysis," which was "in no way representative of the hundreds of millions of posts that people have shared about COVID-19 vaccines."

Yet, "Facebook continued to 'monitor' all of the so-called Disinformation Dozen accounts, trying to find a way to censor more," Jordan wrote, even though "The 'majority' of the accounts in question were not spreading misinformation."

According to an internal Facebook document dated July 23, 2021, the platform "also secretly demoted affiliated accounts by varying degrees to expire at different times," including the Twitter accounts of Kennedy and CHD.

In July 2021, Nick Clegg, Facebook's president of global affairs and former deputy prime minister of the U.K., met with the Office of the Surgeon General. According to Jordan, "Clegg had to report back to the Surgeon General's Office -- did Facebook censor the Disinformation Dozen to try to get the Biden Admin to back off?"

"The answer: Yes, but 'nothing will be persuasive to that crew,'" Jordan tweeted, referencing an internal Facebook document from July 23, 2021.

"Facebook's censorship of the Disinformation Dozen" did not stop there, Jordan said.

"You can never satisfy the Biden censorship regime. President Biden himself helped ensure that CCDH's disinformation had 'unrelenting staying power,'" Jordan wrote, referencing a July 26, 2021, internal Facebook email from "Policy Comms."

Jordan noted that by August 2021, "CCDH's false Disinfo Dozen stat was 'routinely cited in the press,'" as stated in an internal Facebook document dated Aug. 3, 2021.

NPR's May 2021 report on the "Disinformation Dozen," for instance, stated that "Now the vaccine rollout is reaching a critical stage in which most adults who want the vaccine have gotten it, but many others are holding out, these 12 influential social media users stand to have an outsize impact on the outcome."

According to NPR, this "provokes the question: Why have social media platforms only recently begun cracking down on their falsehoods?"

The same report also stated that while "Anti-vaccine activists claim censorship," "None of that is true," and contained remarks from John Gregory, deputy health editor for "fact-checking" firm NewsGuard, which works with CCDH to target "medical misinformation."

An editor's note accompanying the NPR report disclosed that "Facebook is among NPR's financial supporters."

Separately, a July 2021 Forbes article called for Facebook to "De-platform The Disinformation Dozen." The article was written by Steven Salzberg, Ph.D., Bloomberg distinguished professor of biomedical engineering, computer science and biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University.

In July, Forbes published a story that "fact-checked" "Jim Jordan's claims Biden pressured Facebook."

"That's how the censorship regime works: Foreign activists at the CCDH feed false info to the Biden White House. The Biden Admin then uses the full weight of the federal [government] to coerce Facebook to censor Americans, Biden's critics and political opponents, and the truth," Jordan wrote.

In response to Jordan's "Facebook Files" thread on X, Elon Musk, the platform's owner, tweeted "Interesting." In July, X Corp. sued CCDH, alleging it "embarked on a scare campaign" to deter advertisers from the platform by "engaging in a series of unlawful acts designed to improperly gain access to protected X Corp. data."

In response, MSNBC published an Aug. 1 op-ed by Ahmed, claiming CCDH "has been at the forefront of cataloging and reporting on the hate proliferating on the platform owned by Elon Musk."

Which interests are backing CCDH?

In July, "Twitter Files" released by Thacker showed CCDH worked with Twitter to censor CHD, Kennedy and other individuals included in the "Disinformation Dozen" list.

Thacker told The Defender in July that CCDH "sprang out of nowhere in late 2017 or early 2018," soon after Ahmed left his previous role at the U.K.'s Labour Party. He added that he was unable to ascertain who funds the organization, characterizing CCDH as a "dark money group."

report published by GreenMedInfo later in July shed some light on CCDH's funders, including the Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation. And despite Ahmed's claims that CCDH has never taken government money, the report also found at least two of its funders have received U.K. government funding.

CCDH's website does not list the members of its board of directors. However, an archived version of its website from February 2022 lists Kirsty McNeill as a board member. She is also a member of the U.K. Council of the European Council of Foreign Relations, funded by entities including the Open Society Foundations, the U.N. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Another CCDH board member as of February 2022, Simon Clark, was affiliated with the Center for American Progress, which proposed a "comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine plan," including "a massive vaccination campaign" involving "medical experts, sports stars, celebrities, and community leaders," aiming to change people's opinions.

Thacker told The Defender, "Congress needs to find out which Democratic Party interests are backing Ahmed financially. Is it corporate donors or wealthy political contributors aligned with the party?"

"We also need to see if he has any direct ties to Nick Clegg at Facebook. Ahmed was a senior adviser to British members of parliament while Clegg was deputy prime minister," Thacker added.

In March 2022, Murthy, Psaki and other members of the Biden administration threatened social media platforms with regulatory action, including potential antitrust proceedings and loss of liability protection Communications Decency Act Section 230 if they did not turn over COVID-19 "misinformation" data to the White House.

Several lawsuits are now pending in federal courts alleging that the White House and members of the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to suppress speech that was not aligned with establishment COVID-19 and vaccine-related policies -- and the users posting such content.

These cases include the Missouri et al. v. Biden et al. and Kennedy et al. v. Biden et al. censorship lawsuits, which were consolidated in July and are pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and Kennedy v. Google et al., alleging YouTube censored COVID-19 vaccine-related content posted by Kennedy.

The Defender on occasion posts content related to Children's Health Defense's nonprofit mission that features Mr. Kennedy's views on the issues CHD and The Defender regularly cover. In keeping with Federal Election Commission rules, this content does not represent an endorsement of Mr. Kennedy, who is on leave from CHD and is seeking the Democratic nomination for president of the U.S.

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