Recent news reports have surfaced, revealing attempts by the Biden administration to pressure Amazon to censor controversial anti-vaccine books and search results. According to the reports, representatives of the Biden administration have urged Amazon executives to take action against books that the administration has deemed to contain misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and vaccines. The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) condemns the actions of the Biden administration to use its position to bully a private company into compliance.

“Government can use its bully pulpit to express the government line – but not coerce others to do so. These documents suggest that the administration repeatedly met with and pressured Amazon to remove or hide books,” said Lee Rowland, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, “If Amazon made changes to its catalog or algorithm because they feared reprisal from the Biden administration if they didn’t – that crosses the line into censorship. Our constitution rightly forbids the government from setting the terms of public debate; at the heart of a Democracy is the idea that we have a right to hear and engage with dissent over government policy.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Biden administration has gotten caught trying to censor the speech of private entities. Almost one year ago, the House held a hearing on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government” after a trove of records revealed that the administration had repeatedly reached out to social media companies and pressured them into removing content and tweaking their algorithms to eliminate speech the administration believed to be misinformation. The government’s action is just the latest example and why NCAC plans to tell the Supreme Court next week in Biden V. Murthy that the Biden administration has repeatedly crossed the line into coercion. Today’s news only confirms that the administration’s pressure campaign wasn’t limited to social media giants – but also our largest online retailer. 

“We cannot allow the government to set the terms of discussion and debate.” Said Rowland, “If the First Amendment means anything, it’s that the government does not hold a monopoly on truth. When the government tries to strongarm private parties into adopting an approved worldview, that’s not the government using its bully pulpit – it’s just bullying–it’s censorship.”