EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans on Thursday called on President Biden to turn over the details of his campaign to clamp down on social media coronavirus misinformation while blasting the effort as government-sponsored censorship that rivals Communist Cuba.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, penned a letter to Biden on Thursday with the support of 189 of her GOP colleagues to oppose the White House’s efforts to flag posts that spread disinformation about coronavirus vaccinations to Facebook and seek their removal.
"The federal government’s ongoing efforts to pressure private companies to censor speech that it disagrees with is alarming and an affront to the First Amendment," the GOP House members wrote in a letter first obtained by Fox.
"It is the type of behavior we would expect from a Cuban dictator, not a President of the United States," the lawmakers added.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik were among the authors of the letter to Biden. The Republicans argue that government should not be involved in policing social media speech, especially since information regarding coronavirus has evolved since the start of the deadly pandemic that killed more than 600,000 Americans.
They point to the theory that COVID-19 may have escaped from a Chinese lab in Wuhan that was initially labeled as "misinformation" but now is being taken more seriously, even by the Biden Administration’s intelligence community.
"This is the problem with your censorship mission," the lawmakers wrote to Biden. "Not only are you attacking the First Amendment, but your ‘truth’ might be wrong."
The White House has been seeking help from Facebook and other social media sites since February on stopping misinformation from going viral, such as the myth that the vaccine will implant a microchip tracker.
As coronavirus cases are on the rise in light of the more contagious Delta variant and vaccination rates have slowed in the United States, the White House launched a public effort last week to crack down on misinformation, starting with a warning from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that bogus information about coronavirus is an "urgent threat" to public health.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also announced that the Biden administration has been "flagging" content for Facebook to remove.
Biden went one step further Friday by claiming inaction by Facebook and other platforms to take down false information is costing people their lives to a preventable illness.
"The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people," Biden said.
Biden later clarified his remarks to say he was referring to a dozen individuals who are blamed for spreading the vast majority of coronavirus misinformation on social media.
"Facebook isn’t killing people. These 12 people are killing people," Biden said. Monday.
The Republicans urged Biden to "abandon your censorship mission."
They’ve also asked him for details on the social media monitoring campaign, including a "complete list" of all the posts the Biden Administration has flagged for social media companies to remove and a list of all the social media users the White House has requested Facebook or other platforms to ban or suspend.
On Wednesday, Biden defended his efforts to work with social media companies because misinformation "is going to kill people."
"What we're trying to do is use every avenue we can -- public, private, government, non-government – to try to get the facts out," Biden said Wednesday during a CNN town hall.
Biden had set a July 4 goal of having at least 70% of adult Americans at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19. But Biden missed the goal as vaccination rates have slowed down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just over 68% of adults in the country had received at least one vaccination shot as of Wednesday.