The Biden administration pressured Amazon to censor books related to COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021 citing concerns that the material contained “propaganda” and “misinformation,” internal company emails released by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) appear to show.
The documents were obtained by the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government via subpoena, Jordan said in a X thread Monday, which he dubbed, “THE AMAZON FILES.”
“Who can we talk to about the high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation of [sic] Amazon?” Andrew Slavitt, a former White House senior advisor for COVID-19 response, wrote to the online retailer in a March 2, 2021, email, released by Jordan.
“If you search for ‘vaccines’ under books, I see what comes up,” Slavitt wrote in a follow up message that same day. “I haven’t looked beyond that but if that’s what’s on the surface, it’s concerning.”
Amazon officials initially balked at performing “a manual intervention” to remove certain book titles from appearing, arguing that it would be “too visible” and lead to further scrutiny.
“We will not be doing a manual intervention today,” an email between Amazon executives reads. “The team/PR feels very strongly that it is too visible, and will further compound the Harry/Sally narrative (which is getting the Fox News treatment today apparently), and won’t fix the problem long-term … because of customer behavior associates.”
The Amazon officials, whose name is redacted from the email, then notes that another individual at the company, whose name is also redacted, “gave very direct guidance to the teams to be boring and not do anything that is visible and will draw more attention.”
The email states that a tweak to the bookseller’s website that would redirect more customers searching certain keywords to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website was in the works and that a screenshot of that change should be sent to the White House, but it warned employees to play coy with the Biden administration about potential further actions.
“The [White House] will probably ask why we don’t tag the content like [Facebook]/Twitter do if we aren’t taking it down,” the Amazon official writes. “That is an option being explored but that we don’t want to disclose to avoid boxing in.”
Amazon defended its book-selling practices in another March 2, 2021, internal email, noting that the company’s guidelines “do not specifically address content about vaccines” and that “retailers are different than social media communities.”
A week later, on March 9, 2021, Amazon met with White House officials, according to the emails, and the company’s “top talking points” going in was whether the Biden administration wanted books blacklisted by the website or suppressed in search results.
“Is the Admin asking us to remove books, or are they more concerned about search results/order (or both)?” reads a company email.
In another email discussing an upcoming negative media story on COVID-19 vaccine books being sold by Amazon, an official acknowledges that the company “is feeling pressure from the White House Taskforce on this issue as well.”
The pressure applied by the Biden administration apparently worked, as the company put “anti-vax books” under a “Do Not Promote” order the same day Amazon officials met with the White House.
“As a reminder, we did enable Do Not Promote for anti-vax books whose primary purpose is to persuade readers vaccines are unsafe or ineffective on 3/9, and will review additional handling options for these books,” an email between company employees states.
Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and Weaponization subcommittee, revealed that both panels will investigate the alleged censorship effort.
“That’s right. Amazon caved to the pressure from the Biden White House to censor speech,” Jordan said in a tweet.
Amazon did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.
In March, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana alleging that the Biden administration colluded with social media companies to suppress the freedom of speech related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last summer, a US district court ruled that administration officials coerced companies including Twitter and Facebook to censor content over concerns it would lead to vaccine hesitancy.
An appeals court later banned numerous White House officials, as well as the FBI, Surgeon General’s Office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from communicating with social media companies.
The Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of the appeals court order last October until it decides the case.