Joe Biden has been accused of acting like “a Cuban dictator” after his government moved to force tech companies to tackle disinformation about the coronavirus.
A letter to the president was written Thursday by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the top three Republicans in the House — Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik.
It was signed by a total of 190 House Republicans.
“The federal government’s continued efforts to pressure private companies to censor statements with which they disagree are alarming and an affront to the First Amendment,” they wrote in a letter they received from Fox news.
“It’s the kind of behavior we’d expect from a Cuban dictator, not a United States president.”
Elise Stefanik, the Republican Speaker of the House, is one of four senior members of her party who wrote a letter to Joe Biden accusing him of acting “like a Cuban dictator.” To her right she is flanked by Steve Scalise, another author of the letter
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was also one of the co-authors of the letter
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was the fourth co-author of Thursday’s letter
The four Republicans accused Biden of acting “like a Cuban dictator.” Pictured are protesters against the Cuban government, in Miami, on July 18
A photo of Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel is defaced with red paint and the word “murderer” during a Miami anti-government protest in Havana on July 18
On Tuesday, Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, said social media companies should be held accountable for publishing misleading information about the COVID vaccine.
She also said the government is reviewing Section 230 – a 1990s ruling that prevents tech companies from being held liable for their content, such as newspaper and magazine publishers.
“Social media companies have a responsibility,” Bedingfield said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, echoing a report released this week from the White House as they try to raise vaccination rates.
“We are looking into that and they should definitely be held accountable.
“I think you’ve heard the president speak very aggressively about this.
“It’s also the responsibility of the people who create the content.
“Again, I’m going back to the conservative news outlets who are creating irresponsible content and sharing misinformation about the virus being shared on these platforms.
“So it’s a big and complicated ecosystem and everyone bears responsibility.”
Biden administration wants tech and social media companies to end the spread of ‘misinformation’ about public health – but defining misinformation is problematic
Biden’s move is also mirrored by a bill introduced by Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Lujan to hold tech companies liable for any misinformation on their platforms that they fail to remove. The “misinformation” will be defined by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to their proposal.
The Health Misinformation Act was passed Thursday and has no support from Republicans.
In their letter, House Republicans argue that the government should not be involved in monitoring social media, noting that the public health consensus has evolved.
Masks were initially discouraged, and the idea that the virus could have escaped a Chinese lab was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory.
“This is the problem with your censorship mission,” they wrote to Biden.
“Not only are you attacking the First Amendment, but your ‘truth’ could be wrong.”
The White House has been seeking help from Facebook and other social media sites since February to prevent misinformation from going viral, such as the myth that the vaccine will implant a microchip tracker.
Joe Biden said last week that Facebook and other companies are “killing people” by serving as a platform for misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.
He later clarified his comments by saying that he wasn’t accusing Facebook of killing people, but instead wanted the company to “do something about the misinformation, the outrageous information about the vaccine.”
Facebook has rejected the Biden administration’s criticism.
In a blog post, the company said 85 percent of its users in the US have been vaccinated or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Facebook also said it is doing its part to help more Americans get vaccinated, for example by operating pop-up vaccine clinics in low-income and underserved communities in California and other states.