The House Judiciary Committee is escalating its probe into Biden administration efforts to address disinformation, issuing subpoenas to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“To develop effective legislation, such as the possible enactment of new statutory limits on the Executive Branch’s ability to work with social media platforms and other companies to restrict the circulation of content and deplatform users, the Committee on the Judiciary must first understand the nature of this collusion and coercion,” Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote in the letters.
The Justice Department immediately pushed back on the heart of the committee investigation.
“The Department, including the FBI, does not censor content on social media platforms,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
“Private companies have the sole authority to make decisions to protect their platforms and users. As with all the committee’s various requests, the department remains committed to working with the Committee to fulfill their informational needs.”
The probe stems from a lawsuit led by the states of Missouri and Louisiana challenging the government’s coordination with Big Tech companies over disinformation.
The Justice Department argues that the effort ended more than a year ago and did not undermine free speech. The choice of whether to remove any dangerous misinformation they flagged was ultimately up to the companies themselves, they said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announces the appointment of David C. Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, as Special Counsel in Hunter Biden Inquiry at the Justice Department in Washington D.C., on August 11, 2023.
A Louisiana judge barred any government communications with social media companies for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”
However that decision was swiftly enjoined by a higher court after the Department of Justice (DOJ) challenged the sweeping ruling.
Still, the case has become a clarion call for conservatives, particularly on the Judiciary Committee, which frequently accuses the department of “weaponization” against right-leaning viewpoints.
The subpoena reiterates a request from an April letter requesting all communications with social media companies under the Biden administration.
It also asks for any emails dealing with alleged “misinformation,” “disinformation,” or “malinformation,” as well as a list of all employees responsible for FBI and DOJ policies on the matter.