Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter last year and authorized the release of a trove of internal documents detailing how the platform handled content moderation before his arrival, critics have seized on apparent evidence that the federal government had essentially coerced social media sites to censor certain viewpoints and users.
Republican lawmakers have been persistent in their pursuit of answers — and a demand made by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) this week is the latest evidence of the ongoing probe.
— House Judiciary GOP 🇺🇸 (@JudiciaryGOP) June 23, 2023
According to reports, Jordan is calling for a transcribed interview with Robert Flaherty, who previously served as President Joe Biden’s director of digital strategy, in order to determine the impact that the White House had on what speech was targeted by social media platforms.
“The Committee on the Judiciary is conducting oversight of how and the extent to which the Executive Branch has coerced and colluded with tech companies and other intermediaries to censor speech,” the letter states. “Whether directly or indirectly, a government-approved or -facilitated censorship regime poses a grave threat to the First Amendment and American’s civil liberties.”
Among the issues the judiciary panel is reportedly focused on is the apparent censorship of viewpoints about COVID-19 — and vaccines, in particular — that ran contrary to the Biden administration’s position. Jordan’s letter went on to cite documents that reveal Flaherty’s role in facilitating conversations between the White House and social media platforms regarding the removal of such posts.
“These direct and frequent communications with these companies included instructions and demands to remove certain content, which, in numerous instances, appear to have been followed by the social media companies,” the Ohio Republican wrote.
Just weeks after securing a majority in the chamber, House Republicans advanced the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act along party lines in response to concerns brought to light by the so-called “Twitter Files.”
Rep. James Comer (R-KY) sponsored the legislation, asserting: “Federal officials, no matter their rank or resources, must be prohibited to coerce the private sector, to suppress certain information or limit the ability of citizens to freely express their own views on a private sector internet platform.”
Jordan’s letter included a deadline of July 7 for Flaherty to respond and schedule an interview.