The newest right-wing conspiracy theory is that the Biden Administration plans — has announced plans, even — to spy on Americans’ text messages in order to determine who is spreading misinformation about COVID-19, and stop them. It’s all spun from a single sentence in an article that doesn’t actually say any such thing.
Here’s Josh Hawley speaking on Fox News, claiming that the Biden Administration plans to start reading people’s text messages to combat disinformation. He conflates this with the door-to-door vaccine outreach, which conservatives are also misrepresenting as “putting people on a list” or “forcing” vaccines.
The Biden Administration apparently wants to bring Beijing-style surveillance to the United States – reading people’s text messages, going “door to door.” One word: NO pic.twitter.com/tMQr3haGIg
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 15, 2021
There’s also this clip where Dave Rubin similarly misrepresents the whole notion of fact-checkers spying on texts.
Rubin, notably, credits Fox News but also cites the Politico article, actually reading out the sentence before giving it a full spin.
“Biden allied groups, including the Democratic National Committee, are also planning to engage fact-checkers more aggressively and work with SMS carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines that is sent over social media and text messages,” Rubin reads, then says, “What they are saying is that if you send a text message to a friend or to a family member or to whoever, and it includes whatever they deem as misinformation, that somehow you’re gonna get a message on your phone from the government and that’s gonna be in cahoots with the Democratic National Committee?”
The problem, obviously, is that this isn’t what the sentence her read aloud said at all. In fact, nothing anywhere has suggested that the DNC, the U.S. government, or Joe Biden would have any access to these text messages.
That’s not all — the Politico author herself, Natasha Korecki, has responded to these rumors, and corrected the record, reiterating that the story said private groups, not the U.S. government, would be working on the fact-checking efforts, and that they’d only be able to see texts sent to them — not monitor anyone’s activity.
As the story points out, it's allied, private groups that are working with SMS carriers – not the White House. Even then, there is no ability for groups to read individual texts aside from the ones they receive themselves https://t.co/GdIMJgizYh
— Natasha Korecki (@natashakorecki) July 12, 2021
This doesn’t seem to have dispelled the disinformation, however. She shared this information on July 12, and Rubin’s video above was released on the 13th, and Josh Hawley’s misleading Fox interview above was on the 15th — so there’s no sign that conservatives are paying any attention to this correction.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com