Documents show how Homeland Security sought to dodge First Amendment censorship ban
The US government has worked hand in hand with social media platforms to censor online “disinformation” — like the factually true story of Hunter Biden’s laptop — The Intercept revealed on Monday, citing internal Department of Homeland Security documents obtained through leaks and public records requests. Additionally, DHS plans to continue to censor opinions about Covid-19, “racial justice” and US support for Ukraine in the future.
“Behind closed doors and under pressure from private platforms, the US government has used its power to try to shape the discourse online,” Lee Fang and Ken Klippenstein write in Monday’s report.
One of their key revelations is that tech companies — including Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, Wikipedia, Microsoft, and LinkedIn — have met with the FBI and other government agencies every month, before and since the 2020 election. even set up a special portal for “dismantling” which requires a law enforcement email to access.
The process is also outlined in emails between DHS officials, Twitter and the NGO Center for Internet Security, while meeting notes show the government called on tech platforms to “Process reports and provide responses in a timely manner, to include removing reported misinformation from the platform where possible.”
Numerous documents have surfaced due to the lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican currently running for the US Senate. Among them was the revelation that two FBI officials were involved in high-level communications with Facebook to remove the story from the Hunter Biden laptop: Laura Dehmlow, Influence Task Force Section Chief Foreign Affairs (FITF) of the FBI and Elvis Chan, a special agent in the San Francisco field office.
The factually true story published in October 2020 has been denounced as “Russian Disinformation” by Democrat Joe Biden and most corporate media, and the New York Post has been deleted on both Facebook and Twitter.
Another document from March shows Dehmlow telling Twitter executives that subversive social media information could undermine support for the US government.
Zuckerberg says Facebook censored Hunter Biden story after FBI warning
Created in 2019 in response to claims by Democrats that “The Russian Influence” on social media somehow got Donald Trump elected in 2016, the FBI’s FITF would later expand its reach to “disinformation analysis” on Covid-19.
A draft of the quadrennial homeland security review – a strategy document leaked to the Intercept – shows that the DHS intends to target “inaccurate information” on topics such as “the origins of [Covid]-19 pandemic and the effectiveness of [Covid]-19 vaccines, racial justice, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the nature of US support for Ukraine.
Jen Easterly, a Biden nominee to head DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), texted a Microsoft employee in February, saying she was “trying to get us to a place where the Fed can work with platforms to better understand erroneous/messy trends so relevant agencies can try to presuppose/demystify as helpful.”
At a conference in November 2021, Easterly argued that “The most critical infrastructure is our cognitive infrastructure, so I think building that resilience to misinformation and disinformation is extremely important.”
CISA meeting minutes also show Election Security Initiative Director Geoff Hale urging the use of third-party nonprofits like “Clearing house of reliable information to avoid the appearance of government propaganda.”
The Biden administration has sought to dismiss Schmitt’s lawsuit as lacking standing and argued that social media willfully deleted posts without any “coercive” government influence – which would be prohibited under the First Amendment.
“If an authoritarian foreign government sent these messages, there is no doubt that we would call it censorship,” Nadine Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told The Intercept.