Joe Biden has been accused of acting like ‘a Cuban dictator’ in a letter signed by 190 House Republicans, after his administration moved to force tech companies to clamp down on coronavirus misinformation.
A letter to the president was written on Thursday by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the three top Republicans in the House – Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik.
‘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,’ they wrote, in a letter obtained by Fox News.
‘It is the type of behavior we would expect from a Cuban dictator, not a President of the United States.’
Elise Stefanik, the House Republican Chair, is one of four senior members of her party who wrote a letter to Joe Biden, accusing him of acting ‘like a Cuban dictator’. She is flanked, to her right, by Steve Scalise, another author of the letter
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was another 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 behaving ‘like a Cuban dictator’. Pictured are protesters against the Cuban government, in Miami, on July 18
A photo of Cuba’s president, Miguel Diaz Canel, is daubed with red paint and the word ‘assassin’ during a protest in Miami against the government in Havana on July 18
On Tuesday Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, said that social media companies should be held accountable for publishing misleading information on the COVID vaccine.
She also said the administration is reviewing Section 230 – a 1990s era ruling that prevents tech firms from being held liable for their content, in the way that newspaper and magazine publishers are.
‘Social media companies have a responsibility,’ Bedingfield said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, echoing a message that has come out of the White House this week as they try to raise the vaccination rate.
‘We’re reviewing that and certainly they should be held accountable.
‘I think you heard the president speak very aggressively about this.
‘It is also the responsibility of the people creating the content.
‘Again I go back to there are conservative news outlets creating irresponsible content sharing misinformation about the virus that’s getting shared on these platforms.
‘So it is a big and complicated ecosystem and everybody bears responsibility.’
The Biden administration is looking to make tech companies and social media firms end the spread of ‘misinformation’ about public health – but defining misinformation is problematic
Biden’s move is also being mirrored by a bill, introduced by Democrat Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Lujan, to make tech firms liable for any misinformation on their platforms which they fail to remove. The ‘misinformation’ will be defined by the Department of Health and Human Services, under their proposal.
The Health Misinformation Act was introduced on Thursday, and has no Republican support.
In their letter, the House Republicans argue that government should not be involved in policing social media speech, pointing out that public health consensus has evolved.
Masks were originally discouraged, and the idea that the virus could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory 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’ 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.
Joe Biden said last week that Facebook and other companies were ‘killing people’ by serving as platforms for misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.
He later clarified his comments by saying that he wasn’t accusing Facebook of killing people, but that he instead wanted the company to ‘do something about the misinformation, the outrageous information about the vaccine.’
Facebook has rejected the Biden administration’s criticisms.
In a blog post, the company said that 85 per cent of its users in the U.S. have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Facebook also said it was doing its part to help get more Americans vaccinated, such as by operating pop-up vaccine clinics in low-income and underserved communities in California and other states.