By Zachary Stieber
The U.S. House of Representatives has subpoenaed several top Biden administration officials, including the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the administration’s coordination with Big Tech to censor users.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent the subpoenas on April 28 to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Jen Easterly, and James Rubin, an official at the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC).
All three have responded inadequately to requests to provide documents, including communications between their respective entities and social media platforms, Jordan said in letters accompanying the subpoenas. CISA and GEC have not responded at all to the requests, while the CDC has not provided any of the requested documents, he said.
“Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights we have in this country,” Jordan told the Washington Examiner. “The collusion between our federal government and Big Tech undermines First Amendment principles and should be investigated.”
The CDC and GEC did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, CISA’s parent agency, said that the department “does not censor speech and does not request that content be taken down by social media companies.”
“Instead of working with the Department, as numerous committees have done this Congress, the House Judiciary Committee has unnecessarily escalated to a subpoena,” the spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email, adding that the agency “will continue cooperating appropriately with Congressional oversight requests, all while faithfully working to protect our nation from terrorism and targeted violence, secure our borders, respond to natural disasters, defend against cyberattacks, and more.”
Jordan is working with the Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government to probe issues “related to the violation of the civil liberties of citizens of the United States.”
Documents brought to light by reporters who were given access to Twitter’s internal files and produced in a lawsuit filed by several states against the federal government have shown officials were regularly in contact with Twitter and other Big Tech companies on alleged mis- and disinformation, including making requests to crack down on specific users.
The CDC, for example, sent specific posts to Twitter and Facebook, while also adjudicating claims about COVID-19. While doing so, the CDC offered false information about vaccine effectiveness.
CISA official Brian Scully, meanwhile, said in a deposition that officials would route concerning social media posts to Big Tech, with an understanding that the companies would apply their moderation policies and potentially take action.
And Daniel Kimmage, a GEC official, said under oath that his team would regularly meet with Big Tech companies and provide them with information. The team’s focus was foreign disinformation, Kimmage said, though he acknowledged that the GEC flagged concerns about a YouTube channel run by Americans in one instance.
The Biden administration has maintained that its communications with the social media companies were not coercive. U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee, said recently he was unpersuaded by the government’s arguments as he rejected their motion to dismiss the suit.
“Plaintiffs have clearly and plausibly alleged that Defendants engaged in viewpoint discrimination and prior restraints,” the judge wrote.
The states that filed the suit are seeking a preliminary injunction that would bar government officials from “taking any steps to demand, urge, encourage, pressure, or otherwise induce any social-media company or platform for online speech, or any employee, officer, or agent of any such company or platform, to censor, suppress, remove, de-platform, suspend, shadow-ban, de-boost, restrict access to content, or take any other adverse action against any speaker, content, or viewpoint expressed on social media.”
A hearing on the motion is set for May 12.