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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 15, 2021

Biden seeking to ‘infiltrate’ private text messages? That’s False

If Your Time is short

  • Politico reported that Biden allies such as the Democratic National Committee plan to work with wireless carriers to fight misinformation.

  • The party told PolitiFact it notifies carriers of mass texts that  "spread scams and disinformation."

  • There is no evidence that the Biden administration is seeking to "infiltrate" private text messages between individuals.

In a video conversation between two women who call themselves "Chicks on the Right," one claims that under President Joe Biden, the government will intercept and flag private text messages, also known as SMS (short message service).

A clip of the video posted on Facebook starts midstream with the woman referring to a "ridiculous story about how Biden wants to work with SMS companies to try to combat vaccine misinformation in texts. So, in other words, you and I are exchanging texts with one another — private messages between us. Somehow, the government will be infiltrating those." 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The claim is a  distortion of a news story that reported on efforts by Biden allies to alert wireless providers to possible misinformation distributed through mass text messages. 

What the story said

Politico published a July 12 story about the Biden administration’s efforts to more aggressively fight what it perceives to be misinformation from Republican lawmakers and conservative activists about the administration’s efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccinations.

The story also said this about mobile phone text messages:

"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. The goal is to ensure that people who may have difficulty getting a vaccination because of issues like transportation see those barriers lessened or removed entirely."

The story, which did not elaborate on that point, triggered a number of misleading claims by lawmakers and others.

What Biden administration, DNC say

We asked the White House what plans the administration has to work with wireless carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines that is sent over text messages, and whether it supports such efforts by groups like the Democratic National Committee.

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White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz referred our questions to the DNC.

The DNC told PolitiFact it is contacting carriers about texts sent en masse that "spread scams and disinformation."

DNC spokesman Lucas Acosta said the DNC "has no ability to access or read people’s private text messages, and we are not working with any government agency, including the White House,  to try to see personal text messages.

"However, 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," Acosta added. 

CTIA, a trade group representing the wireless communications industry, said in a statement: "Wireless carriers do not read or moderate the content of text messages that their customers send to each other, nor are carriers working with third parties to do so."

Our ruling

A video on Facebook claimed that "the government will be infiltrating" personal text messages.

The Democratic National Committee, not the government, said it is contacting wireless carriers about texts sent en masse that "spread scams and disinformation." 

There is no evidence that the Biden administration aims to intercept private texts. A trade group said wireless carriers do not read or moderate content in texts and are not working with third parties to do so.

The statement is False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post, July 14, 2021

Politico, "‘Potentially a death sentence’: White House goes off on vaccine fearmongers," published July 12, 2021; updated July 13, 2021 

Fox News, "Critics slam Biden administration's reported plan to monitor vaccine misinformation in text messages," July 12, 2021

CTIA, statement, July 14, 2021

Email, Democratic National Committee senior spokesperson Lucas Acosta, July 15, 2021

Email, CTIA spokesperson Jilane Rodgers Petrie, July 15, 2021

Facebook, MRCTV post, July 13, 2021

Twitter, Josh Hawley tweet, July 12, 2021

Washington Examiner, "No, Biden isn't secretly policing your texts — but both parties have been reading some for years," July 14, 2021

Heavy, "White House Allies to ‘Dispel’ Vaccine Misinformation in Text Messages," July 13, 2021

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Biden seeking to ‘infiltrate’ private text messages? That’s False

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