CV NEWS FEED // Amazon gave into “pressure” from the Biden administration to “remove books” with purported “misinformation,” internal emails accessed by House Republicans reveal.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH, on Monday published a series of alleged photographs of email communications by the online retail giant’s employees which he dubbed “The Amazon Files.”
Jordan serves as the chairman of both the House Judiciary Committee and the committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
The conservative lawmaker stated the files “indicate that [Amazon] bowed down to Biden White House pressure to censor” books.
A March 2021 email had the subject line “Pre-Brief for Meeting w/ the White House.” President Joe Biden had assumed office less than two months earlier.
“Hi all – here are the notes for our Pre-brief discussion with the White House today,” wrote the sender, an Amazon employee whose identity was redacted. The email listed “Talking Points (to be made affirmatively)” under the category “Books Curation and Guidelines 101.”
“Is the [Biden] [a]dmin asking us to remove books, or are they more concerned about search results/order (or both)?” he or she asked, apparently as the first of these “talking points.”
Jordan stated that this was proof that the “Biden White House pressured Amazon to censor books.”
He went on to note that many of the books that the administration was allegedly “concerned” about expressed views dissenting from the president’s response to the COVID virus.
At the time COVID restrictions made up a large portion of Biden’s policy agenda.
“Andy Slavitt—the senior Biden White House official who demanded that Facebook censor a meme and true information—was pressuring Amazon at the same time,” Jordan wrote.
The Daily Signal Managing Editor Tyler O’Neil explained that Slavitt was “then a senior adviser on Biden’s COVID-19 response team.”
Jordan added that one week before the anonymous Amazon employee sent the aforementioned email, Slavitt “fired off” another email. Jordan wrote that in the message, Slavitt
demand[ed] to know who he and his White House colleagues could talk to at the company about “the high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation of [sic] Amazon?”
Slavitt is a former investment banker and healthcare businessman who previously served in the Obama-Biden administration. He never attended medical school.
Again from O’Neil:
Slavitt became notorious when Elon Musk released the internal files of Twitter in 2022 and 2023 after he purchased the company in October 2022. Slavitt appears to have repeatedly pressured social media companies into suppressing opposition to COVID-19 vaccines.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Slavitt on Nov. 30.
Jordan explained how the Biden administration apparently came to the “conclu[sion] that that there was ‘propaganda and misinformation’ in books sold in Amazon’s bookstore.”
“The White House ran keyword searches for controversial topics, such as ‘vaccine,’ and emailed Amazon when it didn’t like how the search results appeared,” Jordan wrote:
Initially, Amazon decided to hold off on “doing a manual intervention” to censor books.
Why? Not out of any commitment to free speech, but because doing so would be “too visible” to the American public and likely to spur criticism from conservative media.
Jordan indicated that Amazon’s initial hesitancy to embrace censorship made the Biden White House “upset,” since for “the Biden Admin, letting Americans think for themselves was unacceptable.”
Jordan wrote in a subsequent post:
After the White House spent a week berating Amazon, what did the online bookstore do? Starting March 9—the same day as its meeting with the White House—Amazon enabled “Do Not Promote” for books that expressed the view that vaccines were not effective.
O’Neil summarized more of the Committee and Select Subcommittee’s findings.
“After the March 9 meeting at the White House, Amazon staff strategized how to respond to a negative story that Buzzfeed would publish discussing ‘COVID-19 related books for sale on Amazon,’” he wrote. “Staff noted that they were ‘feeling pressure from the White House Taskforce’ on the issue of books ‘related to vaccine misinformation.’”
Jordan wrote that the investigation is ongoing as of this week, and concluded: “Amazon caved to the pressure from the Biden White House to censor speech.”
Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) Catholic Studies Fellow Mary Rice Hasson added that the House Republicans’ findings contradict the popular claims of those on the political left that they are defenders of free speech against right-wing “book-banners.”
“It’s not conservatives who ban books,” Hasson wrote on X Monday night. “[I]t’s the Biden admin, using compliant, ‘captured’ corporations as lackeys.”
For years, Amazon has increasingly dominated the e-commerce industry.
As of October 2023, the behemoth controlled 37.8% of the market share of online commerce in the United States. The single corporate entity also at the time controlled over a tenth of the country’s entire retail industry – a figure that includes all brick-and-mortar stores.