U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and James Comer (R-KY) wrote in their letter that Zuckerberg "personally communicated" with the infectious disease doctor based on emails from Fauci that were recently publicized.
"It also appears that you shared some of Facebook's confidential trade or commercial secrets with Dr. Fauci, as portions of your email exchange with Dr. Fauci were redacted when made publicly available," their letter added.
The letter from Jordan and Comer instructed Facebook to turn over all communications and documents between employees of the social media site and the U.S. government, including Fauci himself. The lawmakers specifically asked for documents that pertain to Facebook's content moderation policy on the pandemic, the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), its origins and treatments for COVID-19.
"In light of Facebook's subsequent censorship of certain COVID-19 content – including [those] 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," the lawmakers wrote. Ever since the pandemic began, the social media network has blocked content pointing to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) as the place where SARS-CoV-2 originated.
Speaking to Fox Business, Jordan said the exchanges between Fauci and Zuckerberg definitely raise questions – with Congress deserving an answer. He explained: "[There are] probably two explanations. [It's] 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." (Related: Republican lawmakers call on Dr. Anthony Fauci to testify about coronavirus origins.)
A March 2020 exchange between Zuckerberg and Fauci was among the emails that went public. The Facebook CEO said in the March 15 email that he proposed a coronavirus information hub. According to Zuckerberg, the hub's purpose was to ensure "people can get authoritative information from reliable sources."
The Facebook CEO said in his email: "As a central part of this hub, I think it would be useful to include a video from you – because people trust and want to hear from experts rather than just a bunch of agencies and political leaders." He requested the infectious disease expert to do a question-and-answer session and a video for the new hub.
Big League Politics reported that Fauci warmly received the plan. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) called Zuckerberg's proposal "terrific" in his reply. Fauci added: "I would be happy to do a video for your hub. We need to reach as many people as possible and convince them to take mitigation strategies seriously or things will get much, much worse."
Fauci defended himself from criticism during media interviews, claiming that the emails had been "taken out of context." He also slammed GOP lawmakers calling for his resignation as the NIAID director – a position he has held since 1984. "If you're trying to get at me as a public health official and scientist, you're not only attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci – you're attacking science," he told MSNBC. The agency headed by Fauci did not respond to requests for comment. (Related: 3 Ways Fauci emails expose trail of manipulation and deception.)
Meanwhile, Facebook Policy Communications Director Andy Stone explained the exchanges between Zuckerberg and Fauci in a series of tweets. He posted: "In the early days of the pandemic, Facebook reached out to the nation's foremost infectious disease expert, in addition to connecting with others on the Trump administration's Coronavirus Task Force, to offer our assistance."
Stone also confirmed the coronavirus information hub mentioned in one of the emails. He posted that the Facebook CEO "shared with Dr. Fauci … plans to launch a COVID-19 Information Center, a hub to make reliable resources and information about COVID-19 from government and health experts easily accessible on the platform." However, part of this platform's tasks was to remove purported "misinformation" – including content suggesting that the pathogen originated from the WIV.
Jordan surmised that Facebook's decision to initially shut down debate over COVID-19's origins could have played a role in government officials downplaying the lab leak theory. He asked: "Why is this Big Tech platform working in cahoots with the government to suppress certain [types] of information that we now know [were] … credible?"