DNC anti-misinformation push doesn’t involve reading private texts
CLAIM: The Democratic National Committee is working with the Biden administration to monitor private citizens’ SMS communications in a move to crack down on anti-vaccine text messages.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The DNC has “no ability to access or read people’s private text messages” and is “not working with any government agency (including the White House) to try to see personal text messages,” according to Lucas Acosta, a senior spokesperson for the committee. The DNC does report fraudulent mass texts to SMS aggregator companies when it hears about them, Acosta said.
THE FACTS: Conservative lawmakers and social media users this week advanced the false claim that the DNC and other Biden allies were planning to spy on personal text messages in order to identify and dispel vaccine misinformation.
“So now the Biden Administration wants to get into people’s text messages … to force vaccine compliance and who knows what else,” Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted on Monday.
“The Biden Administration in partnership with the DNC, plans to monitor the private text messages of American citizens who question experimental, mRNA, emergency authorized, non-FDA approved vaccines,” Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted on Tuesday. “I can’t believe I am writing this.”
Meanwhile, on Facebook, users likened the DNC to “Big Brother” and warned that “THE DEMOCRATS WILL BE READING OUR TEXT MESSAGES.”
The false claim evolved online after Politico reported on Monday that the DNC and other Biden allies were “planning to engage fact-checkers more aggressively and work with SMS carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines.”
Social media users and conservative websites interpreted Politico’s report to mean the DNC would monitor private text messages in order to crack down on misinformation, but one of the reporters of the piece, Politico White House Correspondent Natasha Korecki, clarified on Twitter that this wasn’t true.
“No,” Korecki tweeted Monday in response to a question about whether the government would be reading personal texts. “Outside groups are attempting to flag to SMS carriers false information campaigns that are driving misinformation on vaccines.”
Acosta explained to The Associated Press that the DNC isn’t infiltrating personal texts, nor is it working with mobile phone carriers like Verizon or T-Mobile to dispel misinformation.
Instead, Acosta said, the DNC is simply notifying SMS aggregator companies, like Twilio and Bandwidth, when it believes a political mass text is fraudulent or violates the company’s messaging policies.
“When the DNC’s counter disinformation program receives complaints or reports of fraudulent broadcast SMSs that we believe violate the text aggregators’ terms of service, we notify the broadcast text platform to help combat this troubling trend,” Acosta said. “The only texts reviewed are those distributed en masse to American citizens through broadcast text platforms and reported to the DNC.”
The White House declined to comment on the record.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with Facebook and other platforms to add context to misleading content and reduce its circulation online.