CDC regularly called the shots on Facebook’s COVID censorship decisions

Facebook routinely took direction from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding COVID-19 moderation and fact-checking policies throughout 2021, according to documents published Thursday by Reason.

Facebook regularly reached out to CDC staff throughout the year, requesting guidance on the accuracy of claims about both COVID-19 vaccines and the disease itself, in addition to guidance on whether the claims might “cause harm,” according to Reason. The social media titan would regularly make decisions based on this communication, notably reversing its monthslong prohibition on users claiming that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese laboratory on May 26, 2021, after a conversation with CDC staff the week prior informed the company that, while “extremely unlikely,” the virus having a man made origin was “theoretically possible.”

“Thanks so much again for you and team’s help in debunking a few COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation claims for us,” a Facebook staffer — whose identity was redacted by Reason —wrote to CDC health communications specialist Carol Crawford on May 24, 2021. “As follow up to our meeting, please see the list of claims below with notes from our conversation last Thursday morning. If you could please confirm the conclusions I’ve noted below based on our discussion, that would be great.”

In a November email, Facebook informed the CDC that it had “immediately” updated its policies after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine the week prior, and that it would censor users who claimed the vaccine “is not safe for kids,” according to Reason. Facebook also sent along several claims — which Reason did not publish — about vaccines to the CDC, asking the government to verify not just their accuracy, but also whether belief in those claims would “contribute to vaccine refusals.” – READ MORE