Updated: Aug 20, 2021
US Government to spy on private text messages
The Biden administration and allied groups, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), are “planning to engage fact-checkers more aggressively and work with SMS [Short Message Service] carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines sent over social media and text messages,” according to a report today in Politico by White House correspondents Natasha Korecki and Eugene Daniels.
The initiative is part of the administration’s attempt to get more people vaccinated for COVID after failing to reach its goal of having 70% of American adults receive at least one vaccine dose by July 4.
“We are steadfastly committed to keeping politics out of the effort to get every American vaccinated so that we can save lives and help our economy further recover,” White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz said, according to Politico. “When we see deliberate efforts to spread misinformation, we view that as an impediment to the country’s public health and will not shy away from calling that out.”
Politico did not clearly define what the administration meant by “monitoring” of text messages, including if messages would be flagged or if they would be prevented from being delivered.
The media outlet also did not clarify how the administration or social media platforms would determine what exactly constitutes “misinformation.”
Critics were quick to condemn the administration’s latest move.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a constitutional lawyer, tweeted this:
This isn’t the first time the White House signalled its intent to work with social media platforms to monitor or suppress information it believes will deter people from getting the vaccine.
In February, the White House asked Big Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to “clamp down on chatter that deviates from officially distributed COVID-19 information,” according to the New York Post and other news reports.
Reuters reported that Biden, concerned that “fear about taking the vaccine has emerged as a major impediment” to his administration’s pandemic plan, wants help from the social media moguls to keep “misinformation” from going viral.