Judicial Watch: CDC Coordinated with Facebook On COVID Messaging and ‘Misinformation’; CDC Received Over $3.5 Million in Free Advertising from Social Media Companies
Judicial Watch announced today that it received 2,469 pages of new documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reveal that Facebook coordinated closely with the CDC to control the COVID narrative and “misinformation” and that over $3.5 million in free advertising given to the CDC by social media companies.
These new documents were received in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health of Human Services (No. 1:21-cv-00625)) lawsuit for:
Any and all records of communication between CDC officials and/or employees and employees, agents, and/or representatives of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube concerning, regarding, or relating to COVID-19 related content on company platforms. Such records include, but are not limited to, any advice or instructions issued on disinformation re COVID-19.
The documents show collusion between the CDC and Big Tech on Covid-19 message and misinformation:
- In an email exchange beginning on January 26, 2020 with the subject, “Data for Good | CDC intros,” a Facebook representative sends the “FB coronavirus narrative” to the CDC.
It states the following:
Facebook is taking a three pronged approached to the global response for the coronavirus:
Limit misinformation and other harmful content on our platforms. Our third-party fact-checkers have been rating information on this topic as false, including the AP, Politifact, AFP Hong Kong, Rapple IQ in the Philippines. As a result, we show people who come across that false content accurate information from our fact-checking partners and strong warning labels. We also send notifications to people who already shared this content alerting them that it’s been fact checked.
Provide accurate and helpful information on our platforms t our partners. Partners are already using our platforms to share accurate information about the situation, including ono Pages. We have also provided ad credits to the World Health Organization and the Philippines’ Department of Health to enable them to run coronavirus education campaigns on Facebook in-region, which we will continue to do. We’re continuing to explore additional steps we can take, including dedicated information modules on relevant search queries and improved search ranking.
Empower partners with data tools. We’re sharing aggregated mobility data and high resolution density maps with various partners (e.g., National Tsinghua University (Taiwan); Harvard School oof Public Health) to help inform forecasting models for the spread of the virus as part of our broader Data for Good program. We’re exploring doing this with a broader set of partners (e.g., WHO, US CDC) and also helping partners understand how people are talking about the issue online through tools like Crowdtangle to inform their efforts.
This email exchange continues on showing more coordination on messaging between the CDC and Facebook.
- The CDC was given over $3.5 million of free advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
- In a March 8, 2020 email, a Facebook representative sends four ad credits totaling $2 million to the CDC for the purpose of supporting “messaging related to coronavirus.”
On March 14, 2020, then-CDC Chief Operating Officer and Chief Strategy Officer Sherri Berger emails Facebook to thank them for the $2 million.
“On behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by the authority delegated to me through Section 231 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. Section 238), as amended, thank you for Facebook’s non-monetary gift of advertising credited with an estimated value of $2,000,000. The gift will be used by CDC’s COVID-19 response to support dissemination of critical public health messaging. Thank you!”
- In an email exchange between August 10-11, 2020, the CDC’s Sherri Berger emails Facebook again to thank them for another $1 million in ad credits with a similar message to that on March 14, except she adds: “This gift will be used by the CDC’s COVID-19 response to distribute scientifically accurate data, guidance and risk communication information on COVID-19 to a broader audience.” In an email exchange on August 25, 2020, Facebook makes CDC officials aware that of their recent gift of $1 million in ad credits, $529,207.42 remain.
- In a heavily redacted email exchange on March 17, 2020, a Twitter official offers the CDC advertising in the form of Twitter’s Promoted Trend and Promoted Spotlight Trend, which have approximate values given as $75,000 and $150,000.
- In an email exchange beginning March 16, 2020, a Google representative offers the CDC free video advertising on YouTube. In the exchange, they claim to not be able to assign a dollar value to this advertising.The CDC’s official acceptance document for this advertising, which they value at $0, Sherri Berger states:I understand that Google LLC may be a vendor and/or lobbyist employed and that Google LLC’s employees may be registered lobbyists. Providing the gift will not prevent Google LLC or its affiliates from supplying products of services to CDC in the future; CDC, however, is under no obligation to accept future services from Google LLC or its affiliates.
- In a February 27, 2020 email, a Facebook representative offers to put CDC officials in contact with WhatsApp in order to establish auto-responses to FAQs about coronavirus in that communications platform.
“These documents show that Facebook and the CDC are joined at the hip on managing the ever-changing Covid-19 ‘narrative’ – which includes censorship of alleged ‘misinformation’,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.