Biden Administration Pressured Amazon to Censor COVID-19 Books: Emails

Amazon removed at least one book and censored others, emails show.

Top officials in President Joe Biden’s administration pressured Amazon to censor some books about COVID-19, according to newly disclosed emails.

“Who can we talk to about the high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation of [sic] Amazon?” Andrew Slavitt, President Biden’s senior adviser for responding to COVID-19, wrote to Amazon on March 2, 2021, the tranche of missives shows.

Mr. Slavitt said in another message that officials had searched on Amazon for “vaccines.”

“I see what comes up. I haven’t looked beyond that, but if that’s what’s on the surface, it’s concerning,” he wrote.

Zach Butterworth, another White House official, told Amazon that he searched “vaccine” on Amazon and found a certain book, which he attached, as the top result.

“When I click on the product page I don’t see any CDC warning,” he added. CDC is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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That same day, internal Amazon emails show the company opted against carrying out “manual intervention” in response to the White House concerns because it would be “too visible” and “further compound the Harry/Sally narrative.”

Amazon removed Ryan T. Anderson’s book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” just weeks earlier, sparking a flood of negative stories, because it “frame[d] LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

The Amazon official said he or she had asked company employees to place a box directing people to the CDC’s website on more pages. The official said officials were considering tagging content with labels, like Facebook and Twitter do, but did not want to disclose that consideration to the White House “to avoid boxing in.”

Another internal email explained that Amazon did not specifically address content about vaccines in its guidelines and that Amazon, as a retailer, “provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable.”

White House officials later met with Amazon officials, although it’s unclear what was discussed in the meeting.

Among the questions the White House submitted ahead of the meeting was about a line in the Amazon guidelines that stated, “We do not allow descriptive content meant to mislead customers.”

“Doesn’t this line in your policy include the spread of misleading information about vaccination?” the White House asked, according to one of the emails.

Amazon was also prepared to ask whether the Biden administration was asking the company to remove books or was more concerned about the order of listings in search results.

On the same day the Amazon-White House meeting was scheduled, according to an Amazon email, the company enabled a “Do Not Promote” effort for “anti-vax books whose primary purpose is to persuade readers vaccines are unsafe or ineffective.”

A review of nine titles resulted in the removal of one over it violating the company’s COVID-19 policy, the email stated.

Amazon did not respond to emailed questions, including which book it removed.

After the meeting, Amazon officials said they had been taking a closer look at books “related to vaccine misinformation” and “debating additional steps Amazon might want to take to reduce the visibility of these titles.”

One official wrote that officials were “feeling pressure from the White House” on the matter.

The emails were released by the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

“Amazon caved to the pressure from the Biden White House to censor speech,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the panel, said in a statement.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Censorship

The missives were disclosed hours before the House Judiciary Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government convened for a hearing about how the federal government has been weaponized.

“The hearing will examine the threat to the First Amendment posed by artificial intelligence and the federal government’s role in funding the development of AI-powered censorship and propaganda tools that can be used by governments and Big Tech to monitor and censor speech at scale,” the subcommittee stated.

Witnesses include journalist Lee Fang and Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

Documents previously uncovered by lawmakers and in a lawsuit against the federal government have shown that the government across the Trump and Biden administrations pressured Facebook, Twitter, and other companies to take action against alleged misinformation. Government agencies applying the pressure included the CDC.

Courts have found the moves likely violated the U.S. Constitution and blocked the government from pressuring companies to censor content

The plaintiffs in the suit “have produced evidence of a massive effort by defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content,” U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, appointed by President Joe Biden, wrote in one of the rulings.

The U.S. Supreme Court later stayed the injunction.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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