Officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) helped create a “disinformation” group at Stanford University that worked to “censor” American speech ahead of the 2020 presidential election, according to several communications outlined in a report of the House Judiciary Committee.
Detailed in the House panel 103-page interim staff reportemails and internal communications show how the group, identified as the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), worked with DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to alert, suppress and remove certain online communications speech -relationships with large technology companies.
One such email – sent on July 31, 2020, by a lead director at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, an EIP partner – described CISA’s role in the censorship effort.
“I know the Council has some broad policy efforts around elections, but we just set up an election integrity partnership at the request of DHS/CISA and are in weekly conversations about disinfo, ” wrote Graham Brookie, the lab’s senior director.
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According to the report, Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, highlighted in a post on Xthe communications showed how the federal government and universities “force social media companies to censor factual information, jokes, and political opinions.”
“This pressure is largely directed in a way that benefits one side of the political aisle: real information posted by Republicans and conservatives is labeled as ‘misinformation’ while false information posted by Democrats and liberals went largely unreported and untouched by the censors,” the report noted. “The pseudoscience of disinformation is now – and always has been – nothing more than a political hoax often targeted at communities and individuals with views contrary to prevailing narratives.”
Along with countless Americans, certain right-leaning media outlets, and conservative commentators whose views have been censored, the report also noted that prominent figures such as then-President Donald Trump, North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie marked their social media postings as “misinformation.”
Other posts from former politicians, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, were also flagged by the groups as “misinformation,” according to the report.
The report went on to note that under the influence of CISA’s Countering Foreign Influence Task Force, the federal government’s effort is “to censor Americans who engage in mainstream political speech in the lead-up to the 2020 election.”
DHS noted in May 2020, according to the report, that it could not “overtly endorse” some kind of system to flag false information. Stanford’s EIP took over the effort two months later, in July 2020.
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“According to internal notes of a call between Facebook employees and DHS personnel regarding a ‘False Information Reporting Portal,’ ‘DHS cannot expressly endorse the portal, but has behind-the-scenes that have signaled [the National Association of Secretaries of State]/[the National Association of State Election Directors] told them that it would be easier for many states to have ‘one reporting channel’ and that CISA and its ISAC would like to have one coming in at the same time as the platforms do.’ Less than two months later, the EIP will be established to serve that very purpose,” the report said.
CISA’s Countering Foreign Influence Task Force used a process known as “switchboarding,” which the report described as “the federal government’s practice of referring requests for the removal of social media content from state and local election officials on relevant platforms.”
“Brian Scully, testified during his deposition in Missouri v. Biden that switchboarding was ‘CISA’s role in forwarding reporting received from election officials … to social media platforms, ‘ said the report.
A previous email from Scully featured in the report informed members of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office that he had alerted parody accounts on Twitter. Another said he asked Facebook to remove a post about the election that was deemed misinformation.
A disclaimer featured in some of the CISA emails said its requests were “voluntary” and that the agency “does not have or is seeking the ability to delete what information is available on social media platforms.”
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The Judiciary staff report also noted that Stanford students worked simultaneously on CISA and EIP.
“Not only were there a number of university students involved in the EIP, at least four of the students were working at CISA during the operation of the EIP, using their government email accounts to communicate with CISA officials and other ‘external stakeholders’ involved in the EIP,” the report said.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, CISA Executive Director Brandon Wales said the agency “does not and has never censored speech or facilitated censorship.”
“Every day, the men and women of CISA carry out the agency’s mission to reduce risk to critical US infrastructure in a way that protects Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy,” said Wales.
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“In response to concerns from election officials of all parties about foreign influence operations and disinformation that could affect the security of election infrastructure, CISA mitigates the risk of disinformation by sharing information about election knowledge and election security to the public and by strengthening the trusted voices of election officials across the country,” he added.
The EIP was described in the report as a “consortium of ‘disinformation’ academics led by Stanford University’s Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) that worked directly with the Department of Homeland Security and the Global Engagement Center, a multi-agency entity within of the State Department, to monitor and censor the online speech of Americans ahead of the 2020 presidential election.”