Amazon Prime Removes Anti-Vax Documentaries

A powerful Congressman successfully pressured a media giant to pull content. We should be worried.

BuzzFeed (“Amazon Removed Anti-Vax Documentaries From Prime Video“):

Amazon appears to have removed anti-vaccination documentaries from search results on Amazon Prime Video today [Friday, March 1-jj], as well as from the catalog of videos included with its Prime service.

On Friday morning, a search for “vaccines” on Amazon Prime Video returned top results for anti-vax documentaries, including Vaxxed and Shoot ‘Em Up: The Truth About Vaccines. But by Friday afternoon, those videos were no longer appearing in search results or available for streaming on the platform.

Around noon Eastern Time, California Rep. Adam Schiff published an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asking that Amazon reconsider allowing anti-vax content to appear on its website.

“Amazon is surfacing and recommending products and content that discourage parents from vaccinating their children, a direct threat to public health, and reversing progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,” Schiff’s letter reads.

Schiff had written similar letters to both Google, which owns YouTube, and Facebook, asking those platforms to address the anti-vax issue, in part because of the ongoing measles outbreak in Washington state.

Following Schiff’s letter, YouTube banned advertising on some anti-vax videos and added additional information panels about vaccine hesitancy to anti-vax videos. Previously, the company announced via a blog post that it’s working to down-rank conspiracy theories in its “Up Next” recommendations.

Facebook also says it’s “currently working on additional changes” to “reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook,” and will announce “additional changes” soon.

I’m more than a little torn by this. On the one hand, I concur with Schiff that the anti-vax movement is causing real harm to America. A bunch of quacks has scared parents out of vaccinating their children, putting not only them but every other person they come into contact with in danger. On the other, a powerful Congressman using his platform to squelch free expression may be a bigger danger.

Amazon, Google, and Facebook are ubiquitous platforms. Being banned from them effectively means not being in the marketplace of ideas. I find it problematic that they have that much power. But they are at least private entities operating from a dominant position in the marketplace in businesses that may well be natural monopolies.

As powerful as these companies are, they’re nonetheless at the mercy of the Federal government. Aside from various intellectual property rights, they also enjoy virtual indemnification from being held responsible for content posted by others on their content, and other protections. If a powerful Member of Congress is sending them letters demanding they withdraw content that makes up a tiny fraction of their business, they’re naturally going to comply. We’ve already seen Google and Facebook capitulate to the demands of China, Saudi Arabia, and various other autocratic regimes. Certainly, they’re going to bow down before the government of the country in which they’re headquartered and their CEOs reside.

The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” A single Member of Congress, even a powerful committee chair, issuing a letter castigating companies and demanding to know what they’re going to do about the problem is well short of that. But it’s certainly abridgment by proxy.

Again, I have little sympathy for the plight of the “victims” here, the perpetrators of anti-vax hysteria. But what’s to stop Schiff or other Members of Congress from using their platforms to threaten other unpopular content with which they disagree?

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, First Amendment, Health, Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    What might be more effective and legal is to sue the makers of the documentary for the resulting damage.

  2. KM says:

    You have the right to freedom of speech but not the forum of your choice.

    There was a time not too long ago this kind of nonsense wouldn’t have even made it to a large platform like Amazon and would have been consigned to the fringes of black and white webpage with 36pt red font. The content has always been accessible if you cared to look. What’s changed is the lack of gatekeepers on the internet has allowed what was previously existent-but-marginal to pretend to be mainstream. In that sense, Schiff is acting like a gatekeeper of old. There is no editor of the internet, no publisher to say “wtf are you running this? ” Yes, someone at the compnay should be functioning in this capacity but in a world where the government doesn’t allow swearing and nipples on TV because of moral reasons, why should the internet be any different? Why shouldn’t there be an enforced online rating system like on TV? Furthermore, why are we pretending that a documentary based on lies should somehow not subject to someone in the government calling out those lies for what they are? Amazon could have told Schiff to eff off, we do what we want. They didn’t because the little advertising money’d they get for running this isn’t worth the lawsuit that would have been headed their way.

    Let them air it in their traditional forum – the backass end of the internet where it belongs. They have a right to free speech – they do NOT have right to front-row center podium position.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @KM:

    [I]n a world where the government doesn’t allow swearing and nipples on TV because of moral reasons, why should the internet be any different?

    The rationale for regulating such content on broadcast media was a combination of “public airwaves” and “children might be watching.” It was always suspect but allowed because the courts understood that government regulation was inevitable simply because there was only so much bandwidth.

    Why shouldn’t there be an enforced online rating system like on TV?

    Because none of the rationales apply. The Internet is essentially infinite.

    Furthermore, why are we pretending that a documentary based on lies should somehow not subject to someone in the government calling out those lies for what they are?

    Lying in trying to make a point isn’t against the law. Hell, politicians themselves do it all the time. To the extent the filmmakers are engaging in fraud or other prohibited conduct, it ought be dealt with according to the law. But they’re simply spreading a stupid idea.

    Amazon could have told Schiff to eff off, we do what we want. They didn’t because the little advertising money’d they get for running this isn’t worth the lawsuit that would have been headed their way.

    Lawsuit for what? And do we really want marginal speech taken off the air because people are suing?

    Let them air it in their traditional forum – the backass end of the internet where it belongs. They have a right to free speech – they do NOT have right to front-row center podium position.

    So, which speech gets to be actually heard and which doesn’t? And who gets to decide? I don’t really want Jeff Bezos and company making that call, as I think they have essentially become a public utility. But far better them than Congressmen using their platform to threaten free speech.

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  4. EddieINCA says:

    Dr Joyner –

    I’m confused as to your position. Isn’t this the free market at work? Amazon isn’t a government entity. Just as companies lobby government, why can’t government lobby companies? Adam Schiff made a request of Amazon. In other words, he lobbied them. Amazon, as a public company beholden to shareholders, decided it was in their best corporate interests, to pull controversial content from their market after the request from Schiff.

    With all due respect, how is this different than Amazon choosing not to have Porn on Amazon Prime? Because if it was about just dollars and profit, porn would be on Amazon’s site, you can count on it.

    So why isn’t porn on Amazon? Because the effect of having such a product in their market would affect the rest of their brand and business negatively.

    How is this any different?

    This isn’t the government passing legislation forcing Amazon to ban such documentaries. This was simply lobbying, which takes place every day in every industry.

    I really don’t understand your position.

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  5. KM says:

    Upon further thought, it occurs to me this whole thing is benefitting from us as a nation having an incredibly lax view of the necessity of public health. If Amazon aired a documentary on how to create bombs, toxins like ricin and other weaponry you can make in your home, you’d better believe that sh^t’s coming down *fast*. First Amendment or not, it’s clearly information that can cause damage and be threat to the general public so nope, not allowed. Why is public health any different then public safety? If someone made a documentary on how AIDS is nothing to fear because the government already has a secret treatment so why bother with safe sex and polished it up so the rubes would buy it, should that be aired? They could have people who were “cured” come on to tell their story! How about convincing people to eat toxic substances – can we have a documentary on the so-called Tide Pod eaters and watch it live?

    There should be a certain point where the information provided’s destructive potential vastly outweighs any benefits and it can get be safely booted. We don’t tolerate certain things like airing snuff films on Amazon Prime and the 1A is fine with it. Why is a threat to my health any different then a threat to my life or my morals?

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @EddieINCA:

    Adam Schiff made a request of Amazon. In other words, he lobbied them.

    People lobby government. Government bullies people. The relationship is decidedly unequal. A letter from a Member of Congress comes with it the implicit threat to utilize the power of government to force compliance.

    @KM:

    Why is public health any different then public safety? If someone made a documentary on how AIDS is nothing to fear because the government already has a secret treatment so why bother with safe sex and polished it up so the rubes would buy it, should that be aired?

    I don’t know that it “should” be aired. I think it should “be allowed” to air. It’s an opinion.

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  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    I don’t much like it, either. But in a world where Republicans regularly impose actual gag orders on doctors and refuse to allow them to offer appropriate treatment, I’m not sure this is the big problem.

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  8. John430 says:

    I think the censorship thing overlooks the issue of vax or no vax.

    Those who refuse vax for their children should do be free to do so but, then we as a society, should be able to refuse them entry into public schools where the risk of spreading the diseases is greatest.
    We would certainly refuse children entry into the public sphere if they had Ebola or TB.
    For those who would jump in and say that anti-vax parents pay school taxes I would also remind them that we seniors still pay school taxes long after our children have finished schooling. So what? The issue is the Public’s Health.

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  9. Modulo Myself says:

    A number of states have passed anti-BDS boycott laws. That’s a real way to target speech. Anyway–this is nothing new. Amazon has monopoly powers, but so does network television. I mean, if you don’t think the American government had enormous influence in dictating who was respectable and therefore allowed to talk about American foreign on network television, you’re crazy. Look at how much Americans know about the Cold War, for example, based on the talking heads who ignored half of what happened.

  10. Tyrell says:

    @KM: What will be next? Soft drinks? Boxes of candy? Violent video games? Books? I am not against vaccines. I am against restrictions on opinions. And this action is a political action, brought on by a powerful senator. And just who is pulling the strings with him? What will he want done next?
    Amazon has a huge corner on the book market. Will this type of action now be done there? Will books be removed because some powerful politician has some concerns? Just who is it with Amazon that will be making these decisions?
    I realize that Amazon is a private corporation. But I thought they had to serve everyone just like other stores have to do.

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  11. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    Ever heard of the slippery slope fallacy?

    You should check it out, because this entire piece is a classic example of the genre.

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  12. I understand the general philosophical concern here. But is this any different than encouraging a platform not to show Holocaust denying content?

    The only way for pressure like this to work is for something to be sufficiently odious to a large percentage of the population to begin with such that the content provider sees more up side than down side to remove it.

    And while I tend towards a fairly liberal POV on free speech, asking that information that is truly dangerous to the broader public to be removed from easy access strikes me as a reasonable request.

    If Amazon Prime had a bunch of content about bomb-making and how to use terrorism against soft targets, would we object if a Senator asked that that be taken down?

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  13. @Tyrell:

    What will be next? Soft drinks? Boxes of candy? Violent video games? Books?

    I know the answer! It is: none of those things.

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  14. Kit says:

    Free speech is based on the Enlightenment’s notion that the truth would set is free (both from the government and from each other). Somewhere along the line, it morphed into justifications for the unleashing of ancient scourges such as measles, for the ascent of a powerful plutocracy that would rather amass riches than take a financial hit stopping the looming catastrophe of climate change, and for the subversion of our democracy by foreign powers spreading lies and breeding discord.

    We’ve grown so fat, stupid, lazy and corrupt that we cannot help but die off. And the last word on our lips as we sink below the waves will be some piety about the slippery slope we face should we, even now, start hitting back against the free expression of ignorance and greed.

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  15. @James Joyner:

    I don’t know that it “should” be aired. I think it should “be allowed” to air. It’s an opinion.

    But, bring attention to something (which is what happened here) is a far cry from being disallowed to do something, even if the person bring the attention is a US Senator. Bezos knew full well that Schiff had no pathway to pass a law to ban anti-vax content from Amazon Prime.

    Bezo/the company is reacting to the current moment wherein there is something of a backlash against anti-vaxxers (FB is trying to curtail content and I have seen a number of stories about people spreading measles of late).

    In terms of real government bullying, this strikes me as a weak example.

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  16. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The only way for pressure like this to work is for something to be sufficiently odious to a large percentage of the population to begin with such that the content provider sees more up side than down side to remove it.

    It strikes me that that’s precisely the speech which needs most protection from government pressure.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If Amazon Prime had a bunch of content about bomb-making and how to use terrorism against soft targets, would we object if a Senator asked that that be taken down?

    I haven’t watched the videos in question but don’t think it’s a great analogy. Instruction on violence is different than arguing that something widely regardless as healthy isn’t. If there were videos arguing that we should feed our kids nothing but pizzas and hamburgers, should they be banned as well?

    @drj: This isn’t a slippery slope. I’m objecting to this particular intrusion and also noting that less popular intrusions would also be validated by its exercise.

    @Modulo Myself:

    A number of states have passed anti-BDS boycott laws. That’s a real way to target speech.

    Those are plainly unconstitutional and I oppose them.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    In terms of real government bullying, this strikes me as a weak example.

    Maybe, since Schiff chairs the Intelligence Committee and not one with direct jurisdiction over Amazon. But it’s nonetheless an implied threat along the lines of “That’s a nice business you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”

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  17. MarkedMan says:

    James, I’m curious. If the congressman had called out YouTube for hosting videos that were anti-Semitic or racist would you still object?

  18. @James Joyner:

    It strikes me that that’s precisely the speech which needs most protection from government pressure.

    In the abstract, I get your point. In the specific, we know this does a public harm.

    The concrete matters.

    I haven’t watched the videos in question but don’t think it’s a great analogy. Instruction on violence is different than arguing that something widely regardless as healthy isn’t.

    The anti-vax movement causes a broader public health problem–kid X can get sick because parent Y did not vaccinate their child. Hence, producing more parent Ys increases the chances of more kid Xs getting sick. I think that the analogy is pretty good, actually, as the proliferation of the specific information in question increases probability of public harm.

    If there were videos arguing that we should feed our kids nothing but pizzas and hamburgers, should they be banned as well?

    That is parent Y hurting kid Y in a fully legal manner. It is wholly different issue.

    Maybe, since Schiff chairs the Intelligence Committee and not one with direct jurisdiction over Amazon. But it’s nonetheless an implied threat along the lines of “That’s a nice business you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”

    I find that to be a stretch.

    @drj: This isn’t a slippery slope. I’m objecting to this particular intrusion and also noting that less popular intrusions would also be validated by its exercise.

    BTW: this actually makes your argument even worse to me, as it suggests that you actually think it problematic that the specific information in question is being taken down–i.e., that your position isn’t about the abstract principle involved, but about the actual content in question. Perhaps I am misunderstanding?

    Also to clarify: are you operating from the assumption (as per your pizza and hamburger example) that anti-vaxxers only harm their own kids? You seem not be addressing the fact that anti-vaxxers can also lead to harming others.

  19. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    BTW: this actually makes your argument even worse to me, as it suggests that you actually think it problematic that the specific information in question is being taken down–i.e., that your position isn’t about the abstract principle involved, but about the actual content in question.

    No, as I note at the beginning and again in the OP, I agree with Schiff that the anti-vax campaign is indeed a public danger. I just think going about combatting it by going after the speech itself is problematic.

    You seem not be addressing the fact that anti-vaxxers can also lead to harming others.

    I note that in the OP. I think there’s a free speech right in spouting the anti-vax position. I don’t think there’s a right to endanger the public by not vaccinating kids, let alone to send unvaccinated kids to school. So, I’d be fine with Schiff advocating stiffening laws requiring vaccination. Or a publicly-financed campaign encouraging vaccination and countering the propaganda of the anti-vaccers.

  20. Kit says:

    A bunch of quacks has scared parents out of vaccinating their children, putting not only them but every other person they come into contact with in danger. On the other, a powerful Congressman using his platform to squelch free expression may be a bigger danger.

    @James Joyner:

    This isn’t a slippery slope

    Sorry, but that’s exactly what it sounds like to me: this may be a bigger danger than an admitted life-threatening actual danger.

  21. @James Joyner:

    No, as I note at the beginning and again in the OP, I agree with Schiff that the anti-vax campaign is indeed a public danger. I just think going about combatting it by going after the speech itself is problematic.

    I just don’t think that encouraging fringe ideas to exist in the fringes to be going after free speech.

    I note that in the OP. I think there’s a free speech right in spouting the anti-vax position. I don’t think there’s a right to endanger the public by not vaccinating kids, let alone to send unvaccinated kids to school.

    But even if unvaccinated kids are kept out of school they can still be at the mall, the park, an airplane, the local McDonald’s playland and so forth.

    Curtailing that public health concern, I would argue, justifies a letter from a Representative (I mistakenly referred to him as a Senator above) to request a company to act in the broader public interest.

  22. R. Dave says:

    Shorter Adam Schiff: “Lovely business you have here, Mr. Bezos. It’d be a shame if someone regulated it.”

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  23. Kit says:

    @R. Dave: Hilarious! You read all of the above and saw a shakedown for personal gain.

    Let me try fixing that for you:

    Lovely business you have here, Mr. Brazos. I’d be a shame if you couldn’t regulate it for yourself .

  24. Tyrell says:

    @James Joyner: Why does Schiff have this kind of influence on Amazon? I am a customer of Amazon. You think they would listen to any complaints and concerns that I have about things they sell?
    It just seems unfair to me. Will Amazon listen to our state’s US senator? I have not followed or have any interest in the anti-vac deal. Now my interest is up. That is what happens when something is banned.
    A few years ago I broke down and got the flu vaccination. Then I got the flu. For the first time.
    Think about this: big pharma = $$$$

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  25. @Tyrell:

    Now my interest is up. That is what happens when something is banned.

    Nothing has been banned. Google, Bing, or whatever away. The info is out there and easily accessible.

    Also: this is about vaccination against things like mumps, measles, etc. Not about flu shots.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    I don’t really want Jeff Bezos and company making that call, as I think they have essentially become a public utility.

    Perhaps they should be regulated like a public utility…

    Government bullies people.

    Considering who is currently occupying the White House, you definitely got that right…

  27. Teve says:

    or just go to Facebook. Anti-vaccination numbnuts are all over Facebook. I saw one idiot yesterday say that they didn’t trust the CDC because it was actually a private corporation that makes all their profit selling vaccines.

  28. Teve says:

    Also: this is about vaccination against things like mumps, measles, etc. Not about flu shots.

    I have an unusual job. I test and fix a certain class of equipment that has to be kept in high-biosafety facilities. Irradiated bunny suits, masks, double-gloving, radiation badges, if it’s personal protective equipment I’ve worn it more times than I can count. It’s not uncommon to take 2 hrs just to get my equipment and tools into the right rooms. And there’s one facility in Jacksonville I can’t even enter without documentation of numerous vaccines, a TB test, and an up to date flu shot. I’ve never gotten sick from the job but I did work a job with a guy whose mask slipped and he wound up with Chemo Mouth for a month.

    People who think vaccines are bad for you are nitwits.

  29. Gustopher says:

    Meanwhile, Trump wanted to raise the postal rates on Amazon because he didn’t like the Washington Post. And attacks on the media are a regular feature of the right wing. How many times has Trump suggested rewriting libel laws?

    I point this out not just to say that the Republicans are worse, but also to set up the background — Amazon could have told Schiff to f-off, and they knew it.

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  30. Tyrell says:

    @Gustopher: Next time I have a problem with Amazon I’m calling Schiff.

  31. JohnMcC says:

    If Congressman Schiff were to get very upset about this, what is the worst thing he could do to Mr Bezos? He could have a hearing.

    At that hearing Mr Bezos and his associates would wrap themselves in freedom of speech pretty much as Dr Joyner does. And probably many anti-vaxxers would be glad for the publicity.

    So of course Congressman Schiff is going to do no such thing.

    We can find so much more to worry about.

  32. @JohnMcC: But the thing is I cannot think of a legitimate excuse for Schiff’s committee to look into this subject.

  33. Teve says:

    the thought occurred to me, I wonder how some of the biggest idiots on the planet, the people who write conservapedia, feel about vaccine. They did not disappoint.

    A vaccine is a pharmaceutical product containing an antigen designed to stimulate the production of antibodies against a particular disease or diseases.[1]

    Many injuries from vaccination are admitted to by the government, and severe potential side effects are disclosed on packaging labels that most parents never see. The sharp rise in autism, which is generally considered incurable and afflicts 1 out of every 59 children, has a correlation with the increase in vaccination; the incidence of autism is greater in states where children receive more vaccines, such as New Jersey and North Carolina.[2] “The new estimate represents a 15% increase from two years prior and a 150% increase since 2000.”[3]

    Traditionally a few highly tested vaccines were recommended for children to protect against deadly or severe diseases, such as smallpox and polio. Beginning in the 1990s, however, profit-driven vaccine manufacturers lobbied states and pediatrician organizations to compel numerous additional vaccines for sexually transmitted or less dangerous diseases. In addition, emotion based on inadequate information can cause over-vaccination.

    17 US states have philosophical exemptions allowing parents to decline the vaccines; 47 states have religious exemptions; all states have medical exemptions,[4][5] but they are hardest to obtain. Some parents choose to homeschool rather than submit their children to numerous vaccinations as required by state laws, due to lobbying by vaccine manufacturers, as a condition of being in school.

    in case anybody is wondering, vaccines correlate with autism the same way thatthe number of people who drown by falling into a pool correlates with the number of movies Nick Cage is in that year.

  34. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, which speech gets to be actually heard and which doesn’t? And who gets to decide? I don’t really want Jeff Bezos and company making that call, as I think they have essentially become a public utility. But far better them than Congressmen using their platform to threaten free speech.

    Could you elaborate on this?

    How has Amazon, specifically in digital video, become essentially a public utility? They haven’t dominated the market, and they have always exercised a strong editorial control over what they will host.

    There’s an argument to be made that services can become so dominant that we need regulation to open them up and ensure everyone has access, but it’s an odd argument to hear from a conservative.

    I do think that with Kindle, Amazon has likely reached that state — massive dominance of e-books, and allowing self-publishing — if we consider e-books themselves needing any protection. I think that when they are cutting off types of content there, they are risking eliminating it from the public discourse.

    (An argument can be made that ebooks themselves aren’t that important, since paper publishing exists, and blogs and websites exist. I would counter that ebooks have adjustable font sizes, and make material more accessible to more people than paper books, but have no real argument against blogs. I almost want to say the ADA should compel publishers to make ebooks available though…)

    Google has definitely reached that point with YouTube, and we should be carefully looking at it, balancing free speech against the terms of service. I’m not sure what remedies we could put in place though — Google has a right to protect their YouTube brand. Perhaps unlisted videos, and let the publishers figure out how to promote them? Can YouTube change their branding? How do we cover costs? Charge the publishers by view, and set up a way to plug in an alternate ad network? Require Google to sell ads on hate speech?

    Anyway, this is the other slippery slope.

  35. Joe says:

    OMG, Steven and James, it’s like watching your parents fighting.

    I think Schiff has done something different here. Rather than implicitly bully Amazon with some potential regulation, he has used a “bully pulpit” (see what I did there?) to assert a popular opinion. The risk to Amazon is not regulation, but some kind of boycott prompted by a public figure galvanizing the unfocused majority to action. I think there are plenty of ways this pressure can be used for evil as well as good, but I don’t think this is a particularly strong example of government bullying so much as celebrity bullying where the celebrity has that status because he is a Member of Congress.

  36. Gustopher says:

    @Teve (Quoting conservapedia):

    17 US states have philosophical exemptions allowing parents to decline the vaccines; 47 states have religious exemptions

    It always annoys me when there is more leeway for religious objections than philosophic objections. If you believe in a sky god telling you not to do something, that’s fine, but if you figure it out on your own, then screw you.

    Ugh.

    It makes me want to carefully find a case involving an atheist pro-life pharmacist who refuses to fill prescriptions for philosophical reasons rather than religious, and encourage them to sue for discrimination. See if “conservatives” will defend athiest’s rights.

  37. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: YouTube is a much bigger problem in terms of anti-vaxxers than Amazon. YouTube is the main vector by which the disease of anti-vax ism spreads

  38. DrDaveT says:

    @Gustopher:

    It always annoys me when there is more leeway for religious objections than philosophic objections. If you believe in a sky god telling you not to do something, that’s fine, but if you figure it out on your own, then screw you.

    This has long bothered me as well. I used to think that it was because people think that one’s religion is an inborn trait, like skin color, and therefore not the responsibility of the individual. That would be a cynical but coherent position.

    I eventually realized, though, that 99% of the people responsible for giving legal deference to religious beliefs only care about Christian religious beliefs, and more specifically their own flavor of Christian religious beliefs. They have no interest in defending (say) the right of Sikhs to wear turbans to school, or Muslim women to wear djellabahs to work, or Friends to not fight in wars. They cheered the Hobby Lobby decision — despite the fact that it is anti-religious-freedom for everyone else.

  39. MarkedMan says:

    @Tyrell: Tyrell, that makes so much sense. Perhaps we should all stop taking any medication prescribed by a doctor? And only take meds recommended by shady people we meet in an alleyway?

  40. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Joe:

    There is a neglected political device that Schiff has employed, jawboning. At the end of the day Schiff gave Amazon, Youtube and Facebook cover for something that they believed was the right thing to do.

  41. JohnMcC says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Well, you’re correct of course. I guess I was imagining some sort of super-congressman who could call hearings willy-nilly. Such a person doesn’t exist. Which makes it more ridiculous to say that Mr Schiff is a threat to freedom of speech.

    Now compare Mr Trump’s declarations regarding broadcast licenses and libel laws.

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  42. JohnMcC says:

    @Joe: I have some tractor-ray dragging me into trivial arguments today I guess.

    Joe, you made me wonder if Mr Schiff could realistically say that he was speaking for his constituents in the CA28. And sure enough, the LA Dep’t of Health issued a warning of a measles outbreak in ’16. And again in ’19.

    Good for Congressman Schiff.

  43. JohnMcC says:

    I am haunted.

    Politico has this: State Lawmakers Pushing for Laxer Vaccine Rules. http://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/03/measles-outbreak-vaccination-1192887

    And there’s also this: Donald Trump Has Long Linked Autism to Vaccines
    fortune.com/2017/02/16/Donald-trump-autism-vaccines/

    I’m going to ignore measles for the next day or two.

  44. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “I have not followed or have any interest in the anti-vac deal. Now my interest is up. That is what happens when something is banned.”

    This is perfectly natural behavior. For a four year old.

    Once you make the big move into double digits, “you’re not the boss of me!!!” stops being a constructive life-philosophy.

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  45. Blue Galangal says:

    @Teve:

    YouTube is a much bigger problem in terms of anti-vaxxers than Amazon. YouTube is the main vector by which the disease of anti-vax ism spreads

    @Gustopher:

    How has Amazon, specifically in digital video, become essentially a public utility? They haven’t dominated the market, and they have always exercised a strong editorial control over what they will host.

    Two points: one, the Amazon platform lends some legitimacy to crazy anti-vaccers. It’s not like YouTube – when you say, “Oh, I saw this on YouTube,” some people might still have a “huh” moment because they know there’s a lot of crazy on YouTube. But if you say, “I saw this on Amazon,” suddenly there’ s a new level of legitimacy simply because Amazon is not known for hosting racist screeds, Gamergate type stuff, etc.

    Second – While Amazon is not a public utility, the argument seems to be that it de facto might as well be. As a public utility, should it not be subject to some regulation along the same lines of network TV/content ratings? After all, if children could see inappropriate things on TV and therefore certain content was restricted to certain hours, how does this not apply to Amazon if Amazon is also providing a public service as a utility?

    I really like Adam Schiff – he’s a straight shooter. I think to some extent AOC’s approach has emboldened some Democrats in Congress not to tuck their tails away and run because the conservamedia has their knickers in a knot, but Adam Schiff has been plainspoken about the problems we’re facing for two years now, and anti-vaxxers are one of those problems. I agree that this is more a use of his bully pulpit than a threat to regulate Amazon, but that’s not to say I don’t think Amazon, and other mega-corporations that straddle the line between social media and streaming content ought to be a little more responsible, and a little more regulated, than they currently are. (News broke very recently that Facebook has been collecting and harvesting cell phone numbers under the guise of 2FA that then get sold to marketers AND get shared with other platforms (WhatsApp, Instagram) – in case you’re wondering how telemarketers keep getting your cell phone number.)

  46. Raoul says:

    I get that this may seem like a difficult issue so perhaps an analogy would work: these videos are like leaving a loaded weapon in the middle a McDonald’s-mmm what should management do? And if management fails to do something perhaps someone should remind them? Anyone?

  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    James, the only people on your side on this are Tyrell and a known troll. Just sayin’.

  48. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kit: I’m sorry your post was so downthread. If it had been posted near the top, you’d have gotten mega-upvotes. I realize that’s not why you wrote, but I wanted to credit you for a powerful statement equal to the others.

  49. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “It strikes me that that’s precisely the speech which needs most protection from government pressure.”

    Channeling Pearce will not make your point more persuasive.

    (I promise to stop teasing the host for the rest of this thread. [But I do wonder whose Kool Ade he’s drinking.])

  50. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    If there were videos arguing that we should feed our kids nothing but pizzas and hamburgers, should they be banned as well?

    Pure and unabashed flummery! If eating pizzas and hamburgers caused third parties to die from preventable epidemics, yes. But they don’t and you knew that when you picked your specious and disingenuous example! Pfui!

  51. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @wr: Alas, as one moves into the higher range double-digits, “you’re not the boss of me” reasserts itself as a defining life principle in some communities and cohorts.

  52. Kit says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Thanks for the kind words!