Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee are demanding answers from an independent organization that reportedly worked with the federal government prior to the 2020 election to censor certain election-related speech.
“The GOP lawmakers are probing the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) ‘partnership’ with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social media companies that they say ‘potentially suppressed Americans’ speech,'” the Daily Mail exclusively reported Wednesday.
House Homeland Security Committee chair Mark Green and member Dan Bishop are specifically interested in the work conducted by the Center for Internet Security (CIS).
On Wednesday they sent a letter to Marci Andino, the director of CIS’ Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC).
In the letter, they accused CIS of having created a “misinformation reporting system” to “facilitate interaction between election officials and their representatives, CISA, CIS, and social media platforms.”
According to the two Republicans, CIS would receive a “misinformation report” from election officials or other NGOs and then forward the reports to social media companies.
They further noted that CIS has claimed that 61 percent of the cases it “reported” led to social media content being censored and removed.
Based on all this, the GOP lawmakers accused CISA of using CIS to strong-arm social media companies into essentially censoring content on behalf of the U.S. government.
“If there was no legal leverage to compel social media cooperation during the 2020 election, was the federal government, through CISA, used as a strong arm?’ the lawmakers inquire,” they wrote in their letter.
“‘There appears to be no other reason for CISA’s participation as a middleman between CIS and social media companies,” they added.
The relationship between CISA, CIS, and social media companies was first reported by The Intercept last October.
“Emails between DHS officials, Twitter, and the Center for Internet Security outline the process for such takedown requests during the period leading up to November 2020. Meeting notes show that the tech platforms would be called upon to ‘process reports and provide timely responses, to include the removal of reported misinformation from the platform where possible,'” the left-wing site reported.
“In practice, this often meant state election officials sent examples of potential forms of disinformation to CISA, which would then forward them on to social media companies for a response,” it added.
Why should the US Security State have any role at all in influencing, cajoling, pressuring, demanding or dictating to social media companies what content they should and should not permit? That’s about propagandizing the citizenry, not protecting it.https://t.co/vhyfd8ooeQ
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 10, 2022
The bad news is that under President Joe Biden, the federal government’s efforts to control free speech have only expanded.
“Under President Joe Biden, the shifting focus on disinformation has continued. In January 2021, CISA replaced the Countering Foreign Influence Task force with the ‘Misinformation, Disinformation and Malinformation’ team, which was created ‘to promote more flexibility to focus on general MDM,'” The Intercept notes.
“By now, the scope of the effort had expanded beyond disinformation produced by foreign governments to include domestic versions. The MDM team, according to one CISA official quoted in the IG report, counters all types of disinformation, to be responsive to current events,'” according to the outlet.
When Jen Easterly took over at CISA after Biden nominated her to the agency in April of 2021, she vowed to continue using resources to combat the spread of allegedly dangerous so-called “misinformation” and “disinformation.”
“One could argue we’re in the business of critical infrastructure, and the most critical infrastructure is our cognitive infrastructure, so building that resilience to misinformation and disinformation, I think, is incredibly important,” she reportedly said at a conference in November of 2021.
Jen Easterly, head of CISA [the federal government’s censorship hub within the DHS] actually said it is “really, really dangerous if people get to pick their own facts.” The condescending suggestion here is that we need the government to pick our facts for us and spoon-feed these… pic.twitter.com/5BoU0aXEWF
— Aaron Kheriaty, MD (@akheriaty) May 30, 2023
CISA has for its part tried to defend its intrusion against free speech by arguing that “once CISA notified a social media platform of disinformation, the social media platform could independently decide whether to remove or modify the post.”
However, The Intercept noted in October of last year that it’s obvious from the evidence that “CISA’s goal is to make platforms more responsive to their suggestions.”
Indeed, in late February, Easterly reportedly texted a representative at Microsoft saying she was “trying to get us in a place where Fed can work with platforms to better understand mis/dis trends so relevant agencies can try to prebunk/debunk as useful.”
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