Cruz made the comment reacting to Facebook saying on May 26 that it would no longer ban posts suggesting COVID-19 is man-made amid mounting calls from President Biden and other officials for further investigation into the pandemic’s origins.
The announcement marked a reversal for the social media giant. In February, Facebook said it would remove posts claiming the virus was man-made or manufactured “following consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization” who had “debunked” the claim.
“These latest breakthroughs have real consequence because it now is clear that Facebook was operating at the direction of and in the direct benefit of the federal government and operating as the government’s censor, utilizing their monopoly position to censor on behalf of the government,” Cruz told host Maria Bartiromo.
He then called it “a very dangerous admission that is now out there for Facebook,” explaining that there could be legal ramifications for anybody “whose speech was censored by Facebook” on the topic.
“If you went out and posted the facts that led a year ago to the very strong likelihood that the COVID virus escaped from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan, China, if you posted that a year ago and they took it down, I think there’s a very good argument you have a cause of action against Facebook,” Cruz said.
“Facebook would ordinarily say, ‘We’re a private company, we’re not liable,’” he continued.
“Well, you know what, when they act at the behest of the government, when they contact [Anthony] Fauci, when they say, ‘Should we censor this?’ and Fauci says, ‘Yes’ and they censor it for the federal government and then magically when the government changes its mind, and say, ‘Oh, all those facts that were there a year ago, now you’re allowed to talk about it,’ they stopped censoring it with a flip of a switch, that lays a very strong argument that Facebook is operating as a state agency and that opens very significant legal liability.”
A Facebook spokesperson did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment to Cruz’s statements on Sunday.
However, in a statement late last month a Facebook spokesperson said, “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps.”
“We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge,” the statement continued.
Politico was first to report on the policy change.
Cruz told Bartiromo that he “unfortunately” doesn’t expect that the Biden administration “will do anything to hold them [Facebook] to account.”
Public calls for further investigation into the pandemic’s origins intensified in recent days after the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology displayed symptoms severe enough to seek hospital treatment. A previous State Department fact sheet noted the researchers had “symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illness.”
In a statement last month, Biden said he had directed his national security adviser to develop a report on the virus’ origins, including the possibility that it emerged after a laboratory accident, shortly after he became president. Biden said he has called on intelligence officials to present a report on their findings within 90 days.
Facebook and other social media platforms have faced pressure from both sides of the aisle regarding their COVID-19 content policies. Democratic lawmakers have pressed platforms to crack down on the spread of misinformation, while Republicans, including Cruz, have accused the companies of stifling open debate, including discussions on the lab leak theory.
Cruz also reacted to the trove of recently released emails to and from top government epidemiologist Anthony Fauci, which sparked fierce backlash against him from some Republicans, including Cruz.
“I got to say this e-mail dump that came out makes clear that this is not just being sloppy, it is systematic, and it is systemically an effort to mislead the American people,” Cruz told Bartiromo.
Cruz added, “He [Fauci] wasn’t doing it alone, but he was doing it with much of the U.S. government behind him and with Facebook and Big Tech operating as an extension of the U.S. government in order to silence any views that disagreed, not with the science because he wasn’t looking for the science, he was suppressing the science, but rather trying to silence anything that disagreed with the political narrative that was convenient that he was pushing at that moment.”
The emails Cruz was referencing were obtained first by BuzzFeed via a Freedom of Information Act request.
A spokesman for Fauci and The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where Fauci serves as director, did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Fox Business’ Thomas Barrabi and Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.