Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said a "foreign dark money group" is behind the research cited by the Biden administration that 12 social media personalities are responsible for the majority of vaccine misinformation online.
"For days now, the Biden’s Administration has said 12 people are ‘guilty’ of spreading #COVID19 ‘misinformation’ on social media. Who compiled this list for them? The Center for Countering Digital Hate. A foreign dark money group," Hawley tweeted on Tuesday, accompanied by a Guardian article titled, "Majority of Covid misinformation came from 12 people, report finds."
The Center for Countering Digital Hate, a non-profit and non-governmental organization, reported in March that 12 social media accounts are responsible for 65% of vaccine misinformation. The group has offices in London and Washington, D.C., and was founded by Imran Ahmed, who describes himself as "a recognized authority on the social and psychological dynamics of social media."
"This is the same dark money group that tried to have the conservative @FDRLST deplatformed last year. And they’ve gone after other conservative sites as well, like @BreitbartNews," Hawley continued, referring to the group working last summer to strip the Federalist of its Google ad revenue.
"But who is funding this overseas dark money group - Big Tech? Billionaire activists? Foreign governments? We have no idea. Americans deserve to know what foreign interests are attempting to influence American democracy."
When asked for comment about Hawley's tweets, the Center for Countering Digital Hate instead focused on the group's mission, telling Fox News it is a nonprofit organization that "works with experts in diverse fields to counter violent extremism in whatever form it takes -- whether the issue is antisemitism, racism, hate towards women or anti-vaxxers that profit from lies."
The tweet comes after White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the Biden administration working with Facebook to limit misinformation on the coronavirus vaccine. She has noted repeatedly that the majority of misinformation online comes from 12 social media accounts, citing the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s research.
"We're regularly making sure social media platforms are aware of the latest narratives, dangerous to public health that we and many other Americans are seeing across all of social and traditional media. And we work to engage with them to better understand the enforcement of social media platform policies," Psaki said Friday during a press conference.
Paski also remarked that if a user is banned from one platform "for providing misinformation" that user should be banned from all others.
The relationship between the White House and Big Tech has sparked the ire of conservatives, including Mark Levin, who said last week that social media platforms are "doing the work of the government, it is doing the work specifically of the Biden administration and the Democrat Party."
Psaki said the White House isn’t personally pulling social media posts that contain misinformation on the vaccine, saying platforms such as Facebook are private sector companies.
Levin, however, argued Facebook is not a private company due to this relationship with the federal government and added that Psaki's comments also make former President Donald Trump's lawsuit against Big Tech a "slam dunk."
"The Biden administration at multiple levels - senior staff, among others - are working with Facebook and other social media platforms to identify misinformation and thereby to sanction the misinformation and censor the social media posts, and to spread information. It can no longer be said that it is an independent business, conducting its own business," Levin said on his radio show last Thursday.
The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment on Hawley’s remarks about the Center for Countering Digital Hate.