You hear a lot about “book bans” from Democrats these days. Yet in 2021, Elizabeth Warren tried to use her power as a U.S. senator to get a specific book she disliked “banned” from Amazon—and a federal appeals court just let her get away with it.
Here’s the backstory.
In September 2021, Warren penned a letter to Amazon’s CEO blasting the company for allowing books to be sold, and also discovered on its platform that it spread what she believes to be “COVID misinformation.” She highlighted a specific book, “The Truth About COVID-19: Exposing the Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal,” by Joseph Mercola and Ronnie Cummins as the subject of her ire. The book contains a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
“As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, Amazon is feeding misinformation loops through its search and ‘Best Seller’ algorithms, potentially leading countless Americans to risk their health and the health of their neighbors based on misleading and inaccurate information that they discover on Amazon’s website,” Warren wrote.
The senator then “asked” Amazon to explain itself and “asked” for “within 14 days… [it provide] a plan to modify these algorithms” so they no longer are “directing consumers to books and other products containing COVID19 misinformation.” Warren’s letter even threatened Amazon with legal consequences, suggesting that its practices constituted “an unethical, unacceptable, and potentially unlawful course of action from one of the nation’s largest retailers.”
Kennedy sued Warren over this, alleging that her pressure campaign against Amazon constituted “jawboning,” which is an established legal standard that refers to government coercion of private speech suppression, and that has been deemed unconstitutional. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that Warren does not need to retract the letter and that, due to a variety of factors, her actions do not constitute “coercion” but are rather an attempt at “persuasion.”
I’ll leave it to the lawyers to haggle over the precedent—and this decision might be appealed to the Supreme Court—but regardless, this outcome is deeply disappointing. Senator Warren’s actions are at the very least contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment.
No matter how one feels about vaccines or COVID, no American should want our government officials shaping what books and information we are able to access. Especially because their “requests” often carry an implied threat, making companies more likely to cave to them, although thankfully Amazon did not do so in this case. Nonetheless, as we saw in the Twitter Files, these kinds of government “requests” can still have a chilling effect on free speech.
Senator Karen should butt out of our bookshelves and get a hobby. And the American public should demand a firewall between the government and Big Tech when it comes to censorship decision making.