Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) released subpoenaed internal communications Thursday revealing how the Biden White House pressured YouTube to censor content related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These revelations come months after the House Judiciary Committee exposed collusion between Facebook executives and Biden administration officials to censor Americans’ speech during the pandemic.
“We knew the Biden White House was pushing Facebook and Twitter to censor more,” Rep. Jordan wrote on X Thursday. “Now we know the White House was repeatedly pressuring Google to censor content on YouTube.”
In one communication dated April 12, 2021, President Joe Biden’s Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty emailed Google “about misinformation and COVID-19.”
Flaherty wanted to know about the work Google was doing “to combat vaccine hesitancy” and to “crack down on vaccine misinformation.”
The Biden administration official also wanted to discuss “Ways the White House (and our COVID experts) can partner in your product work.”
In an internal email discussing Flaherty’s request, Google executives understood the Biden administration official’s request to be “very [YouTube] focused.”
“In our last meeting, Rob [Flaherty] particularly dug in on our decision making for borderline content,” a member of Google’s team on Government Affairs and Public Policy wrote.
Borderline content refers to content that does not explicitly violate YouTube’s Community Guidelines.
A week after this exchange, a member of the Google Government Affairs team — who had been in recent talks with the Biden White House — explains that Flaherty was “interested in what we’re seeing that is NOT coming down.”
The emails also state the Biden administration was “extremely interested in what we may be observing re: vaccine hesitancy on [YouTube].”
A team member offers to provide Flaherty with the number of videos YouTube removed for “COVID vaccine misinfo.”
The Google Government Affairs team then contacted the YouTube Product Team, informing them that “there is a very high degree of interest coming from the White House now regarding vaccine misinfo/vaccine hesitancy and our work around borderline content.”
The Google executive writes that the Biden administration is interested in the platform’s “work to promote authoritative sources for vaccines,” and asks the YouTube team if they would be willing to brief the White House “to prevent anything from potentially spiraling out of control.”
In an email update to the YouTube Team a week following the previous exchange, the Google team wrote that the Government Affairs teams of both Google and YouTube were having “conversations with the White House staff on YouTube’s policies.”
Both teams wanted the YouTube Product Team to meet with Flaherty to discuss “[YouTube’s] policies and efforts” related to removing content.
The Google team wrote that they were requesting the meeting due to “the significant attention coming from the [White House] staff on this issue,” and were seeking “to work closely with [the Biden] administration on multiple policy fronts.”
Rep. Jordan said Thursday that both the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government “will continue this critical investigative work to further inform legislative solutions to the vast government censorship enterprise.”
In July, Jordan and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced the Free Speech Protection Act, a bill that would prohibit executive branch employees and contractors from using their positions to censor speech protected by the First Amendment.
The proposed legislation would also impose mandatory penalties for those executive branch employees who engage in censorship of constitutionally protected speech.
“Americans are free people and we do not take infringements upon our liberties lightly. The time has come for resistance and to reclaim our God-given right to free expression,” Sen. Paul said in July. “Under my Free Speech Protection Act the government will no longer be able to cloak itself in secrecy to undermine the First Amendment rights of Americans.”