EXCLUSIVE: Docs Shed New Light on How Key Cog in Public-Private Censorship Regime Targeted Political Speech
New details on CISA's partner, the Election Integrity Partnership, bolster claims this was a government cutout working to suppress protected speech on social media. The unknowingly targeted speak out.
In the run-up to the 2020 election, cybersecurity experts at the Department of Homeland Security and Stanford University decided they had discovered a major problem.
The issue was not compromised voter rolls or corrupted election tallies but a “gap” in the government’s authority to clamp down on what it considered misinformation and disinformation – a gap identified by DHS officials and interns on loan to the agency from the Stanford Internet Observatory. Given what SIO research manager Renee DiResta described as the “unclear legal authorities” and “very real First Amendment questions” regarding this gap, the parties hatched a plan to form a public-private partnership that would provide DHS with an avenue to surreptitiously censor speech.
The collaboration between DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency and the Stanford outfit would quickly expand into a robust operation whose full extent is only now becoming clear. For RealClearInvestigations, I obtained exclusively from House investigators records revealing in previously undisclosed detail the nature and mechanics of the operation – the SIO-led Election Integrity Partnership.
They show at a granular level the thousands of tweets and Facebook posts on topics from mail-in voting to aberrant election results – arguably core protected speech – that the public-private partnership flagged to social media platforms for censorship, much of which the platforms would suppress.
The evidence shows EIP – sometimes alongside CISA – pressuring platforms to target speech that included statements by then-President Trump; opinions about election integrity rooted in government records and even think-tank white papers; and speculative tweets from statesmen and everyday citizens alike. I detail notable instances of content targeted here, with reaction from those unknowingly targeted.
EIP scoured hundreds of millions of social media posts for content disfavored by the government about election processes and outcomes, and collected it from the operation’s governmental and non-governmental partners to identify the offending speech.
My reporting at RCI, drawing on sources including Missouri v. Biden, a pending lawsuit alleging state suppression of free speech including COVID dissent and news of Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop, illustrates how EIP coordinated with government officials; targeted right-leaning domestic speech from politicians, journalists, and everyday Americans; and served as an active censorship advocate rather than a mere misinformation and disinformation research vehicle.
“One look at these documents shows the government and these organizations working hand-in-glove to suppress the speech of Americans,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Chairman of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee that procured the documents from Stanford.
Read the whole thing at RealClearInvestigations.
For a dozen examples of targeted content and the reactions of the targeted, see my accompanying piece here.