Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), House Judiciary Committee chairman, has issued subpoenas to officials representing three federal agencies as part of the committee’s probe into whether the federal government “coerced” Big Tech platforms to censor speech.
The committee said in a release on Friday that Jordan subpoenaed officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) for documents and communications related to the investigation.
The subpoenas were sent to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, CISA Director Jen Easterly and GEC Special Envoy and Coordinator James Rubin.
The release alleged that the committee requested voluntary cooperation from these agencies in March, but they have not provided any documents in response to its requests. But the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where CISA is housed, rejected this.
Republicans have argued that the federal government and Big Tech companies have sought to use social media to censor conservative viewpoints online.
Jordan and other Republicans have pointed to The Twitter Files, a series of posts and documents that have been made on Twitter since Elon Musk took over the company that purportedly show government censorship efforts, as evidence of collusion between the government and social media.
“The Twitter Files and other public reporting have exposed how the federal government has pressured and colluded with Big Tech and other intermediaries to censor certain viewpoints in ways that undermine First Amendment principles,” the release states.
A spokesperson for DHS told The Hill in a statement that the department does not censor speech nor request that social media companies take down content.
“Instead of working with the Department, as numerous committees have done this Congress, the House Judiciary Committee has unnecessarily escalated to a subpoena,” the spokesperson said. “DHS will continue cooperating appropriately with Congressional oversight requests, all while faithfully working to protect our nation from terrorism and targeted violence, secure our borders, respond to natural disasters, defend against cyberattacks, and more.”
A source familiar with the situation said DHS was working to bring together the information that the committee requested, but the committee did not try to work with the department through normal channels and sent the subpoena in the midst of DHS’ work.
The source said CISA sent social media platforms information that state and local election officials identified as possible disinformation related to election security during the 2018 and 2020 elections, but platforms make their own decisions based on their policies.
The Hill has reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services, where the CDC is housed, and the State Department for comment.
Jordan also chairs a select committee investigating “weaponization” of the federal government, with the committee’s Republicans arguing that the government has targeted conservatives. Democrats on the committee have argued that the committee itself is a partisan exercise.