House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., penned a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg questioning the platform’s content moderation on the origins of COVID-19.
“These communications with Dr. Fauci raised the prospect that the federal government-induced Facebook to censor certain speech in violation of the First Amendment,” the letter states.
It went on to say, “government should not enlist private firms to help skirt the First Amendment… When a private company, especially one with Facebook’s market dominance, suppresses free speech at government’s behest, it tramples citizens’ constitutional rights.”
Until two weeks ago, Facebook banned content claiming COVID-19 was man-made. A Facebook spokesperson said the decision to lift the ban was made in light of the ongoing investigation into coronavirus origins.
In the letter penned on Wednesday, Republicans said lifting the ban is an admission that Facebook should’ve never censored the content in the first place.
When FOX Business’ Hillary Vaughn asked Rep. Jordan whether allowing discussion of COVID origins could’ve helped lawmakers reach answers more quickly, he replied: “The simple answer is we don’t know, but it probably would have helped.”
Although some emails between Zuckerberg and Fauci were released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), parts were redacted.
“This is why we want to know what’s under the redaction. I mean, it can’t be classified information. Is it trade, secret information? What is it?” Jordan said. “Why did the government say, oh, no, no, you can’t see what is in communication with the highest-paid official in our government, Dr. Fauci, and the head of one of the biggest companies on the planet? You’re not allowed to see what they’re talking about. And we know what they were talking about led to the fact that certain information was kept from the American people.”
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone responded to the letter Wednesday morning in a set of Tweets saying, “In the early days of this pandemic, Facebook reached out to the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, in addition to connecting with others on the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, to offer our assistance.”
The thread continued, “Mark Zuckerberg shared with Dr. Fauci Facebook’s plans to launch a COVID-19 Information Center, a hub to make reliable resources and information about COVID-19 from government and health experts easily accessible on the platform… In the redacted part of the email, Zuckerberg told Dr. Fauci of our plan – which we’d described in our company blog weeks earlier…”
Facebook is not legally obliged to disclose its private emails.