by WorldTribune Staff, May 5, 2021
Emails obtained by government watchdog group Judicial Watch documented officials in the Iowa Secretary of State office successfully pressuring Facebook to censor posts regarding the 2020 election.
The emails show how the state agency leaned on Facebook to censor Judicial Watch’s posts which raised concerns about Iowa’s failure to maintain accurate election rolls.
“These records are yet another example of state officials conspiring with Big Tech to deny Americans their First Amendment rights,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These records further show that Big Tech censorship is a government scandal: Iowa government officials worked with Facebook to remove posts they didn’t like, and Facebook bowed to this political pressure immediately. It should be disturbing to all Americans that government officials are working to censor speech they disagree with and that these behemoth companies often seem willing to roll over and censor free speech.”
Judicial Watch received the records as a result of a June 2020 Iowa Open Records lawsuit that was filed after the Iowa Secretary of State failed to comply with a February 2020 request for records and communications about a Judicial Watch report regarding the accuracy of the state’s voter registration rolls.
The records show that officials in the Iowa Secretary of State office on multiple occasions contacted officials from Facebook and Twitter to try to have them remove Judicial Watch posts.
On Feb. 3, 2020, at 5:19 p.m., Kevin Hall, the communications director for the Iowa Secretary of State, wrote to Facebook official Rachel Holland: “Rachel, We’ve been playing whack-a-mole with this false story all day. Is there anything you can do to help: [likely https://www.facebook.com/JudicialWatch/posts/10157583458431943]
“We’ve told them is fake. They have it PINNED to the top of their page.
“Here’s our rebuttal: https://sos.iowa.gov/news/2020_02_02.html”
Holland responded at 6:11 p.m., writing: “Hi Kevin, Circling back with an update regarding the content posted by Judicial Watch. Our third-party fact checkers have rated this content false, and we have applied a filter over the content warning users before they click to see it that the content has been rated false by independent fact checkers.
“Please continue to report violating content to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and copying me (RachelHolland@fb.com), as I will be on an airplane for the next couple hours. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding this or any other matters.”
A couple of hours later, Hall followed up, “Thank you! They have new posts up, doubling down on the false claims.”
Holland responded, “Thanks for flagging- we’ve got a full team with eyes on this now and are applying the false filter to similar articles as well. I’ll send you an additional update shortly!”
That same day, Hall and Maria Benson, the director of communications at the National Association of Secretaries of State, both tried to convince Twitter to censor Judicial Watch’s posts but were ultimately unsuccessful.