A group of House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are calling on White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients to answer questions about an effort to flag misinformation about vaccines on Facebook.
The panel's ranking member, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, was joined in signing the letter by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., the ranking member on the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C.
''On July 12, 2021, media outlets reported that groups affiliated with the Biden Administration, like the Democratic National Committee, are planning to encourage cellular communications carriers to surreptitiously spy on Americans in an effort to silence speech disfavored by the Biden Administration,'' the Republicans claim.
''The White House has also said that it is flagging content on Facebook for the company to censor. These efforts target speech that the Biden Administration and its allies view as 'misinformation' regarding COVID-19 and vaccines.
"Any such effort undertaken by the Biden Administration, or at the Administration's behest, would have grave consequences for Americans' First and Fourth Amendment rights. We write to request additional information about this matter.''
The members of Congress go on to note that ''the U.S. Constitution protects the right of Americans to speak freely without fear of government intrusion. While the government is free to encourage citizens to engage in certain favored behavior, the government generally may not proscribe or impede speech because it disagrees with the ideas expressed.
"The government also may not monitor the communications of Americans in the absence of a warrant, or use a private party to engage in behavior that it cannot engage in itself. The Biden Administration using cellular communications carriers to monitor and potentially restrict or disrupt access to speech, or directing a private company to censor certain speech it views as misinformation would violate these essential Constitutional doctrines.''
They ask Zients to provide ''a staff-level briefing on the Biden Administration's efforts to work with cellular communications carriers and Facebook to address what it considers to be misinformation regarding COVID-19 and/or vaccines.'' They also ask for ''all documents and communcations'' related to this topic, ''including efforts undertaken by outside groups at the behest or with the encouragement of the Biden Administration.''
Finally, the members of Congress ask for ''all documents and communications referring or relating to the Biden Administration identifying content for Facebook to censor on its platform regarding COVID-19 and/or vaccines.''
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