The Biden administration has pushed large social media companies to crack down on information which they believe to be dangerous to the general public, a move that critics say is overly vague and endangers free speech.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted that the administration is working directly with Facebook and other platforms to ensure that “narratives dangerous to public health,” are taken down. Psaki also encouraged social media companies to adopt a uniform standard for the banning of individuals.
Meanwhile, President Biden said that platforms such as Facebook are “killing people” by permitting such narratives to spread, and more recently, White House spokesman Mike Gwin confirmed that the Biden administration had “engaged with Facebook since the transition” to set clear standards for the suppression of misleading content.
It is also unclear what the Biden administration considers to be “narratives dangerous to public health.” If applied too broadly, a vague term such as “misinformation” could be used to silence legitimate discussion of relevant issues; memes mocking large media outlets have been tagged as misinformation on social media.
Psaki’s comments have already led to legal problems for the social media giants: Florida veteran Richard Rogalinski, 38, has sued Facebook for censoring his posts, arguing in his lawsuit that Psaki’s comments indicate that Facebook has become a “state actor” bound by the First Amendment.
Although Facebook and the other social media giants are private companies, legally empowered to largely set their own standards, the government is restrained by the First Amendment in its handling of public speech, including false speech. The Biden administration’s recent statements, therefore, have raised questions and evoked criticism.