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America’s Largest Corporations Are Contributing to Our Censorship Problem

Some of the most powerful corporations the world has ever known are censoring speech they disagree with.
Jeremy Tedesco
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A book sits on a table with a padlock on top

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s why the barrage of revelations that the federal government is working hand-in-glove with some of the most powerful corporations the world has ever known to censor speech it disagrees with should be an alarm bell for every American.

In a string of posts on X, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) unveiled subpoenaed documents that show officials in the Biden White House pressuring Amazon to suppress and censor books that challenged the government’s authorized narrative on COVID-19 vaccine efficacy.

Just over a month into the administration, high-ranking White House administrators had already grown frustrated with their lack of progress in overcoming vaccine hesitancy. With social media platforms already silencing dissent at full tilt, the White House found Amazon to be a willing partner as it ramped up efforts to slow the spread of opposing views.

Amazon controls as much as 70 to 80 percent of book distribution throughout the country—not to mention its influence worldwide. Its dominance of the marketplace, paired with its own track record of viewpoint discrimination, apparently made Amazon a natural fit to participate in the Biden administration’s censorship scheme.

Just three days after the White House first reached out, the trillion-dollar behemoth launched an internal “Do Not Promote” list targeting books that questioned the official COVID-19 response plan. As Jordan went on to note, Amazon also “considered other ways ‘to reduce the visibility’ of certain books that the Biden White House disliked.”

“That’s right,” Jordan wrote, “Amazon caved to the pressure from the Biden White House to censor speech.”

Alarming as it is, this story is far from isolated. In fact, Jordan’s thread exposing Amazon’s censorial alliance with the White House was the second deeply troubling report his House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government made public in a matter of weeks.

In mid-January, Jordan shed light on the fact that federal law enforcement agencies, under the auspice of investigating criminal activity committed on Jan. 6, 2021, partnered with major banks and payment processors to flag Americans’ purchases from stores like Cabella’s, Bass Pro Shop, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well as those related to “religious texts” including Bibles.

This kind of surveillance is terrifying. It’s straight out of 1984. No citizen of a free country should live in fear that their bank might be working with law enforcement to flag them as a "threat" for shopping at Cabelas or buying “religious texts.” Yet, the government’s unprecedented co-opting of major corporations to censor and intimidate everyday citizens is becoming more and more normal by the hour.

My colleagues and I at Alliance Defending Freedom recently filed two friend-of-the-court briefs for upcoming cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. Both concern this destructive nexus of government and corporate power.

In National Rifle Association v. Vullo—where the NRA is represented by the ACLU—we call on the Court to protect against the state of New York’s indirect weaponization of the financial industry to punish political opponents. In Murthy v. Biden, we similarly urge the Court to hold the federal government accountable for the well-documented collusion between White House officials and social media platforms, which the Twitter Files shed even more light on.

While we’re hopeful that the High Court upholds fundamental freedoms in both cases—and that similar cases making their way through the court system in New York and Texas result in positive outcomes as well—it’s high time that companies like Amazon and Facebook, and leading institutions in the financial industries, quit contributing to the problem. Amazon, for instance, has a vague terms of service policy that grants employees unbridled discretion to ban content they find to be “inappropriate or offensive.”

According to ADF’s 2023 Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, which measures corporate respect for free speech and religious liberty, 64% of the 75 largest tech and finance companies include these kinds of problematic terms, including every major social media platform and seven of the nation’s 10 largest commercial banks. These policies set the stage for government and corporate censorship alike and are a threat to the speech and religious freedom of Americans of every political and religious stripe.

Jordan’s thread exposing Amazon’s complicity with the White House includes a damning comment: “For the Biden Admin, letting Americans think for themselves was unacceptable.” If our freedom is to continue, that trend must be stopped in its tracks. Not only in the Oval Office, but also in the C-suites of America’s largest companies.

Jeremy Tedesco
Jeremy Tedesco
Senior Counsel, Senior Vice President of Corporate Engagement
Jeremy Tedesco serves as senior counsel and senior vice president of communications for Alliance Defending Freedom.