Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, during a hearing in New York on April 17, 2023.
Stephanie Keith | Bloomberg | Getty Images
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, threatened enforcement action Google that could include holding the company in contempt of Congress for failing to produce documents subpoenaed by the commission to learn about the tech company’s communications with the Biden administration.
In a letter to Google’s legal counsel shared exclusively with CNBC, Jordan called the company’s compliance to date “inadequate” and demanded that it turn over more information. Jordan warned that if the company does not fully meet its new May 22 deadline, “the committee may be forced to consider the use of one or more enforcement mechanisms.”
Jordan summons issued CEOs of parent company Google Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Target and Microsoft in February demanding that they turn over communications with the US government to “understand how and to what extent the executive branch has coaxed and colluded with companies and other intermediaries to censor speech.” Jordan asked the companies to comply by March 23. He made the request after initially asking the company to do so provide information voluntarilybut they said they didn’t comply enough.
While several other tech giants have been subpoenaed in connection with the committee’s investigation, other companies have so far appeared to be more responsive to requests than Google, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Congress may despise the individual for refusing to provide information requested by the committee. This requires a committee vote and then a simple majority vote on the floor. Republicans currently hold the majority in the House 222-213.
Criminal contempt cases can be referred to the Justice Department, or Congress could seek a civil judgment in federal court to try to enforce a subpoena, according to a 2017 order paper from the Congressional Research Service.
The committee may also try to take further action against Google, such as ousting the company’s management or trying to limit federal dollars from Google in future legislation.
In the letter, Jordan listed several ways in which Alphabet failed to adequately comply with the committee’s demands.
He said Alphabet had “thwarted the committee’s review of the responsive material by unilaterally redacting key information necessary to understand the context and content of the material.”
Alphabet did not claim those redactions contained privileged information, according to Jordan, and the committee is demanding the release of the unredacted documents.
The company recently placed some documents in the “reading room,” Jordan said, “in a form and manner that prevents and frustrates the committee’s understanding and use of those documents and does not qualify for subpoena without the committee’s consent.” “
He wrote that Alphabet produced 4,000 pages of documents in response to the subpoena. However, those documents have yet to contain a “significant volume” of several types of communications that the committee believes Google should have. These include communications with other social media platforms about content moderation, documents from other Alphabet subsidiaries, non-email messaging communications, and communications between employees about any contact with the executive branch of the US government.
“The release of Twitter files showed how extensively the executive branch communicated and coordinated with tech companies on content moderation,” Jordan wrote, referring to reports of internal documents that Twitter owner Elon Musk released to a hand-picked group of journalists. when he took over the company. “We are skeptical that Alphabet’s interactions with the federal government where pressure was applied were less troubling than Twitter’s interactions.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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