Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are demanding that Google comply with a subpoena they sent as part of their investigation into how the federal government may have colluded with the company to censor the online speech of Americans.
This week, the committee reached out directly to the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, demanding that they comply. In a letter the committee sent, members noted that Google produced only 4,049 pages of documents to the committee, and much of the content was redacted.
As they wrote:
“Alphabet’s compliance with the subpoena to date is insufficient. These redactions do not appear to be based on any applicable privilege because Alphabet has asserted none.”
The Judiciary Committee is demanding that Alphabet fork over documents without any omissions or redactions on them. Members of the committee also said they were unhappy with how Alphabet was giving them access to documents, through allowing them to use a “reading room.”
As the committee wrote:
“[This method] prevents and frustrates the committee’s understanding and use of the documents and fails to comply with the terms of the subpoena without the committee’s consent.”
The committee is seeking material from Alphabet that includes “responsive communications with other social media platforms related to content moderation,” “responsive communications with the Global Disinformation Index and other third-party entities” and “responsive documents in the custody of its subsidiaries.”
In addition, the Judiciary Committee wants access to material that was disseminated across a wide range of message applications that Google uses, which includes Slack, Signal, Telegram, Messenger, Microsoft Teams, email and more.
They’re also demanding that Google send them “internal communications” that took place among employees of the company “referring or relating to any documents or communications with the Executive Branch of the United States government, whether public or non-public, referring or relating to the moderation, deletion, suspension, restriction or reduced circulation of content.”
The Judiciary Committee began its investigation, and issued this subpoena, following the release of the Twitter Files – which were an analysis of internal Twitter communications and documents that were released once Elon Musk bought the social media platform.
Matt Taibbi, a journalist who was given access to the Twitter Files, reported that a State Department faction of employees used influence they have to have multiple Americans banned from the social media platform before Musk took over.
In early March, Taibbi reported that the Global Engagement Center, a taxpayer-funded entity with the mission to “coordinate U.S. federal government efforts [to] tackle disinformation” was working to snuff out any social media users that belonged to “state-sponsored blacklists.”
Taibbi produced evidence from the Twitter Files documents that showed members of the GEC sent to Twitter many reports on multiple topics that used the concept of an “ecosystem,” or guilt-by-association.
As Taibbi wrote on Twitter at the time:
“The ‘ecosystem’ is not a new concept. It’s been with us since Salem: guilt by association. As one Twitter exec put it: ‘If you retweet a news source linked to Russia, you become Russia-linked,’ does not exactly resonate as a sound research approach.”