The primary authors of the letter are Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, a ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.
The request comes after emails between Fauci and Zuckerberg were published by mainstream media outlets who were able to obtain them through Freedom of Information Act requests. The emails show Zuckerberg soliciting help from Fauci to promote the tech giant's coronavirus information hub. (Related: Fauci emails: Fauci colluded with Zuckerberg to fearmonger about the coronavirus before the election.)
"In light of Facebook's subsequent censorship of certain COVID-19 content – including content about the pandemic's origin – these communications with Dr. Fauci raise the prospect that the federal government induced Facebook to censor certain speech in violation of the First Amendment," wrote the congressmen.
Jordan and Comer want to know if Fauci or anyone else in the federal government helped Facebook decide to censor any content that framed the lab leak origin theory in a good light. This theory suggests that the coronavirus was engineered in a lab in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where it leaked after infecting its employees.
In their letter, the congressmen demand that Facebook hand over "all documents and communications between or among Facebook employees and U.S. government employees" regarding the coronavirus, its treatment and its possible origins. In addition, they also want Facebook to hand over documents detailing the company's content moderation policies regarding the coronavirus.
Furthermore, they want Facebook to hand over unredacted versions of the recently released emails, specifically the ones that were heavily censored because they contained confidential trade or commercial secrets.
In an interview with Fox Business, Jordan said the exchanges between Zuckerberg and Fauci raise a lot of questions that the American public deserves the answers to.
"There's probably two explanations," said the congressman. "Either Zuckerberg and Facebook [were] duped like so many Americans were and thought Dr. Fauci is the smartest man on the planet … or they were working with the government. And it seems to be more of the latter."
Jordan speculated that Facebook's initial decision to stifle any debate regarding the origins of COVID-19 may have subdued any pressure government officials may have felt to take the lab leak theory more seriously.
"Why is this big tech platform working in cahoots with the government to suppress certain types of information that we now know was pretty darn credible?" asked Jordan.
The congressman added that it is telling that when Fauci was downplaying the lab leak theory, Facebook suppressed all content on its platform that portrayed it positively. But when the administration of President Joe Biden announced it was taking the theory seriously, the company's policies suddenly changed.
"Dr. Fauci, once again has changed his position," said Jordan. "So he's saying, 'Oh, well, there may be some credibility to looking at the lab, the origins of the virus from the lab.'"
"Whatever the government says, Facebook goes along with it."
Facebook Policy Communications Director Andy Stone attempted to address the interactions between Zuckerberg and Fauci in a series of tweets.
Stone claimed that Facebook reached out to offer its assistance not just to Fauci but also to members of former President Donald Trump's Coronavirus Task Force. During this initial exchange, Zuckerberg shared information with Fauci regarding his company's plan to launch an information hub "to make reliable resources and information about COVID-19 from government and health experts easily accessible on the platform."
He claims that the creation of the information hub and its purpose are not a secret, and is something that the company actually talked about on multiple occasions.
"In the redacted part of the email, Zuckerberg told Dr. Fauci of our plan – which we'd described in our company blog weeks earlier – to share Facebook ad credits with government agencies to help them run coronavirus PSAs," wrote Stone.
Jordan countered this assertion by Stone. If the emails don't actually contain sensitive trade secrets that Facebook is trying to hide, then the company should release the original emails in their unredacted forms.
Learn more about how big tech companies like Facebook may have influenced government policy regarding the coronavirus pandemic at Pandemic.news.