The FBI has responded to a claim by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook algorithmically censored references to Hunter Biden’s laptop ahead of the 2020 election after receiving a warning from the bureau about “Russian propaganda.”
Zuckerberg said on an Aug. 25 episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” that Facebook actively reduced the reach of social media posts discussing the laptop computer in response to an advisory from the FBI to some Facebook staffers to be on guard for Russian disinformation ahead of the presidential election.
“The background here is the FBI I think basically came to some folks on our team [and] were like, ‘Hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election, we have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump similar to that, so just be vigilant,’” Zuckerberg told Rogan.
FBI: Warning Was General in Nature
The FBI responded by issuing a statement to media outlets on Aug. 26, saying that its warning to Facebook was of a general nature and didn’t include a call to action.
The FBI said it “routinely notifies U.S. private sector entities, including social media providers, of potential threat information, so that they can decide how to better defend against threats” and that the agency “has provided companies with foreign threat indicators to help them protect their platforms and customers from abuse by foreign malign influence actors.”
Meta Issues Statement
Meta, which is Facebook’s parent company, also issued a clarifying statement, saying in a Twitter post that remarks made by Zuckerberg to Rogan were basically the same as what he told Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in 2020.
“The FBI shared general warnings about foreign interference—nothing specific about Hunter Biden,” the company said in the statement.
Clips featuring Zuckerberg’s response to Rogan quickly went viral, prompting a flurry of takes critical of the FBI, with some accusing the agency of engaging in election interference.
“This isn’t just insane, it’s election interference,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said in a statement, while calling on Zuckerberg to testify before Congress “about the FBI’s attempts to circumvent the First Amendment.”
A similarly scathing take was expressed by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
“The same FBI who lied about Russian ‘collusion’ and raided President Trump’s home asked Facebook to manipulate its feed to bury the Hunter Biden story,” Jordan said in a statement.