Officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assisted in the creation of a ‘disinformation’ group at Stanford University that worked to ‘censor’ the speech of Americans prior to the 2020 presidential election, according to a number of communications outlined in a report by the House Judiciary Committee.
Detailed in the House panel’s 103-page staff interim report, the emails and internal communications showed how the group, identified as the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), worked with DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to alert, suppress and remove certain online speech in coordination with big tech companies.
One such email – sent July 31, 2020, by a top director at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, an EIP partner – described the CISA’s role in the censorship effort.
‘I know the Council has a number of efforts on broad policy around the elections, but we just set up an election integrity partnership at the request of DHS/CISA and are in weekly comms to debrief about disinfo,’ wrote Graham Brookie, the lab’s senior director.
According to the report, which Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, highlighted in a post to X, the communications showed how ‘the federal government and universities pressured social media companies to censor true information, jokes, and political opinions.’
‘This pressure was largely directed in a way that benefitted one side of the political aisle: true information posted by Republicans and conservatives was labeled as ‘misinformation’ while false information posted by Democrats and liberals was largely unreported and untouched by the censors,’ the report noted. ‘The pseudoscience of disinformation is now – and has always been – nothing more than a political ruse most frequently targeted at communities and individuals holding views contrary to the prevailing narratives.’
Along with countless Americans, certain right-leaning media outlets, and conservative commentators whose views were censored, the report also noted that prominent figures like then-President Donald Trump, North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie had their social media postings marked 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 was to ‘censor Americans engaged in core political speech in the lead up to the 2020 election.’
DHS noted in May 2020, according to the report, that it could not ‘openly endorse’ a type of system to flag misinformation. Stanford’s EIP took up the effort two months later, in July 2020.
‘According to the internal notes of a call between Facebook employees and DHS personnel regarding a ‘Misinformation Reporting Portal,’ ‘DHS cannot openly endorse the portal, but has behind-the-scenes signaled that [the National Association of Secretaries of State]/[the National Association of State Election Directors] has told them it would be easier for many states to have ‘one reporting channel’ and CISA and its ISAC would like to have incoming the same time that the platforms do.’ Less than two months later, the EIP would be established to serve that very purpose,’ the report noted.
The CISA’s Countering Foreign Influence Task Force used a process known as ‘switchboarding,’ described in the report as the ‘federal government’s practice of referring requests for the removal of content on social media from state and local election officials to the 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,’ the report stated.
One past email from Scully that was featured in the report informed members of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office that he had alerted parody accounts to Twitter. Another one made it known that he had requested for Facebook to remove a post about the election that had been deemed misinformation.
A disclaimer featured on several of the CISA emails noted that its requests were ‘voluntary’ and that the agency ‘neither has nor seeks the ability to remove what information is made available on social media platforms.’
The Judiciary staff report also noted that students at Stanford worked simultaneously at the CISA and EIP.
‘Not only were there a number of university students involved with the EIP, at least four of the students were employed by CISA during the operation of EIP, using their government email accounts to communicate with CISA officials and other ‘external stakeholders’ involved with 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 execute the agency’s mission of reducing risk to U.S. critical infrastructure in a way that protects Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy,’ Wales said.
‘In response to concerns from election officials of all parties regarding foreign influence operations and disinformation that may impact the security of election infrastructure, CISA mitigates the risk of disinformation by sharing information on election literacy and election security with the public and by amplifying the trusted voices of election officials across the nation,’ he added.
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 housed within the State Department, to monitor and censor Americans’ online speech in advance of the 2020 presidential election.’