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HomeCOVID-19How Amazon caved in to White House pressure to suppress vaccine-critical books

How Amazon caved in to White House pressure to suppress vaccine-critical books

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AS WELL as pressuring social media platforms to censor content during the covidpandemic, the Biden administration worked with Amazon to suppress books questioning the safety or efficacy of vaccines, according to internal emails obtained through a series of subpoenas, Fox Business reported.

The emails, dubbed ‘The Amazon Files’, were included in a report by the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

In a June 21 post on X, committee chair Jim Jordan shared a list of 43 books that Amazon initially added to a newly created ‘Do Not Promote’ class of allegedly anti-vaccine books. (If you click on the list in the tweet you can see the list – there are two pages).

The first book on the list is Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History by Dr. Suzanne Humphries and Roman Bystrianyk. The second is Vaccine Epidemic, co-authored and edited by Children’s Health Defense (CHD) CEO Mary Holland, CHD General Counsel Kim Mack Rosenberg and Louise Kuo Habakus. Other suppressed titles included The Autism Vaccine: The Story of Modern Medicine’s Greatest Tragedy by Forrest Maready and a parenting book by Dr Robert Sears that challenges mainstream medical advice on vaccinations.

According to the congressional report published last month, Andrew Slavitt, a former White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response, asked in a March 2, 2021, email to Amazon who the White House could talk to about ‘the high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation’ on Amazon’s online bookstore.

Amazon’s public policy vice president responded an hour later, assuring Slavitt that Amazon had taken ‘a number of actions’ to avoid showcasing misleading content.

Just minutes later, Slavitt emailed back saying, ‘If you search for “vaccines” under books, I see what comes up. I haven’t looked beyond that but if that’s what’s on the surface, it’s concerning.’

Amazon’s public policy vice president again responded, saying that books whose subject matter involves questioning the efficacy of vaccines did not violate Amazon’s policies.

Later that morning, another Biden White House official, Zach Butterworth, emailed Amazon with a screenshot taken from a search, noting he did not ‘see any CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] warning.’

The report stated: ‘Slavitt added in a subsequent email that afternoon that Amazon “caters to people who are Anti-vax” . . . Slavitt added that the Biden White House would be interested in discussing with Amazon further, not just about Amazon policies, but also specific “examples like this that are of concern” . . . Slavitt concluded the email by stating that only attaching a CDC information panel next to books regarding vaccine related matters, “wouldn’t be a great solution”, suggesting that more severe steps, such as the removal or demotion of books, may be necessary.’

The same day, Amazon’s public policy vice president agreed to have Amazon employees meet White House staff on March 9, 2021.

During the week leading up to the meeting, internal emails among Amazon employees showed that ‘Amazon felt it was necessary to defend its bookstore policy of allowing a variety of viewpoints’, the report said.

As pressures from the White House reverberated up Amazon’s corporate ladder, the head of the books team approved the adoption of a new policy to apply a ‘Do Not Promote’ label to so-called anti-vaccination books. The report did not explain how Amazon handles books with a ‘Do Not Promote’ label.

The report said an Amazon employee suggested adding vaccination content from the bookstore to the ‘Do Not Promote’ class designated for ‘extremist’ content. ‘By doing so,’ the report said, ‘Amazon could more quickly mitigate the prevalence of disfavored vaccine-related books while the team finished creating a new class for anti-vaccine books.’

The same employee also requested that 43 ASINs — Amazon Standard Identification Numbers, used to identify specific products on the Amazon Marketplace — be added to an internal ‘Master Tracker Misinformation’ list of titles.

On March 8, another Amazon employee explained that the changes to Amazon’s bookstore policies were being applied ‘due to criticism from the Biden people’.

On March 9, 2021, Amazon’s public policy team circulated talking points to use in the impending meeting with the White House. One of the top talking points included the question, ‘Is the Admin asking us to remove books, or are they more concerned about search results/order (or both)?’

The report did not include a transcript of that meeting. However, it did contain emails after the March 9 meeting showing that Amazon continued to consider ways to reduce the visibility of books disfavoured by the Biden administration.

For instance, a March 12, 2021, internal Amazon email discussed an upcoming meeting to ‘take a closer look at books related to vaccine misinformation and debate additional steps Amazon might want to take to reduce the visibility of these titles’.

The email noted that Amazon’s Public Policy team was ‘feeling pressure from the White House Taskforce on this issue’.

Mary Holland told the Defender she was ‘appalled that the Biden White House intimidated Amazon into censoring Vaccine Epidemic‘.

She said: ‘Given the censorship-industrial complex that has metastasized in recent years I consider it a badge of honor to have a book in the second slot on this list and to be in such outstanding company as Suzanne Humphries, Roman Bystrianyk’ and other authors on the list.

Kim Mack Rosenberg told the Defender that the Amazon Files show the Biden administration again trying to prevent people from information-gathering and engaging in critical thinking and decision-making — actions that she said are the antithesis of democracy.

‘That book, written more than a decade ago, contains still-valuable information from a variety of viewpoints,’ she said.

There are many other excellent books on this list, she said. Holland agreed, noting that many of the censored titles were produced by Skyhorse Publishing ‘which made so many books possible, including our own’.

Holland said: ‘I long for the day when the First Amendment again absolutely prohibits government censorship by proxy.’

Amazon and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This article originally appeared in The Defender on June 24th and is republished here by kind permission.

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Suzanne Burdick
Suzanne Burdick
Suzanne Burdick PhD is a reporter and researcher for The Defender.

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