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Jim Jordan requests communications between social media giants and Biden Administration officials

By Sarah May
|
February 9, 2023

As House Republicans continue to probe allegations of collusion between top Democrats and social media giants to suppress free speech on a range of topics, Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (OH-4) has formally requested that the Justice Department turn over materials its attorneys submitted in a prior lawsuit filed by two GOP state attorneys general, as The Hill reports.

The request comes amid heightened oversight efforts designed to address suspected censorship impacting topics ranging from COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to election integrity.

Document demand issued

On Wednesday, Jordan dispatched a letter to Brian Boynton, deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s civil division, seeking documents produced in a lawsuit filed last year by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana.

In their complaint, the Republican AGs accused the Biden administration officials of “allegedly working” in conjunction with social media companies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Meta to control and limit the range of available content on subjects such as the origins of the coronavirus and information contained in Hunter Biden's now-infamous abandoned laptop.

In his letter to the DOJ, Jordan wrote, “Documents produced to the States as part of this litigation include communications between Executive Branch officials and employees of social media companies. These documents appear to reveal that the Executive Branch repeatedly pressured social media platforms to censor certain viewpoints.”

Noting that “Congress has an important interest in protecting and advancing fundamental free speech principles, including by examining how the Executive Branch coordinates with or coerces private actors to suppress First Amendment protected speech,” Jordan requested that all relevant documents be produced no later than Feb. 22 by 5:00 p.m.

Comer holds hearing

Jordan's letter was sent on the same day the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing was held in which several former Twitter executives sat for questioning by the panel related to the company's October 2020 decision to suppress New York Post reporting on the aforementioned laptop computer.

In opening the proceedings, Oversight Committee chair James Comer (KY-01) declared, as ABC News noted, “America witnessed a coordinated campaign by social media companies, mainstream news and the intelligence communities to suppress and delegitimize the existence of Hunter Biden's laptop and its contents.”

Comer further asserted that Twitter “worked hand-in-hand with the FBI to monitor the protected speech of Americans, receiving millions of dollars to do so.”

Though Comer's claims align closely with internal company information contained in the so-called “Twitter files,” the release of which was facilitated by new CEO Elon Musk, former executives at the social media firm denied that collaboration with government officials took place.

Former Twitter execs deny collusion

In the face of Comer's arguments, however, former Twitter executives Yoel Roth, Vijaya Gadde, and James Baker, who served as the company's head of safety and integrity, chief legal officer, and deputy counsel, respectively, contended that while mistakes may have been made, they were not the sort alleged by the panel's chairman.

Roth, for his part, stated, “I've been clear that in my judgment at the time, Twitter should not have taken action to block the New York Post's reporting,” but added that the decision was made due to supposed similarities between the laptop story and an alleged Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee back in 2016.

Gadde acknowledged that Twitter's “initial action was wrong” regarding the Post's reporting and that rather than taking two weeks to reinstate the outlet's account on the platform, such a move should have been made “immediately.”

Baker also testified that he had not been in direct communication with the FBI surrounding the question of censoring or suppressing the Post's reporting on Hunter Biden's computer.

Republicans unconvinced

The former executives' testimony did not appear likely to sway the assessments of GOP committee members, with Comer telling the trio, “You were entrusted with the highest level of power at Twitter, but when you were faced with the New York Post story, instead of allowing people to judge the information for themselves, you rushed to find a reason why the American people shouldn't see it.”

“In a matter of hours, you were deciding on the truth of a story that spans years and dozens of complex international transactions,” Comer continued. “You did this because you were terrified of Joe Biden not winning the election in 2020.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert (CO-03) stood firm in her belief that Twitter executives had indeed been “colluding with the FBI” and stated, “I am angry for the millions of Americans who were silenced because of your decisions, because of your actions, because of your collusion with the federal government.”

The House GOP's expansive investigatory zeal shows no sign of slowing, and as Jordan, Comer, and others continue their dogged pursuit of documents and testimony on a range of inter-connected concerns about the current administration and some of the most powerful people in it, the stakes going into the next election cycle could not be higher.