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7 Nov, 2023 19:55

US ‘election integrity’ think tank targeted conservatives – Congress

The partnership was allegedly created by the Department of Homeland Security to make an end-run around the First Amendment
US ‘election integrity’ think tank targeted conservatives – Congress

The Election Integrity Partnership, an online “disinformation group” created by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and operated through a network of think tanks and academic institutions, was deliberately set up to censor conservative speech during the 2020 campaign season, a report published by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday revealed. 

The group directed almost all of its censorship efforts against “true information, jokes, and political opinions” posted by conservative social media users while ignoring false information posted by liberals, the report claimed, describing the partnership’s true goal as “censor[ing] Americans engaged in core political speech in the lead up to the 2020 election.” 

Prominent figures whose posts were flagged as “misinformation” included then-President Donald Trump, Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) and Thomas Massie (Kentucky), satire site the Babylon Bee and conservative media outlet Newsmax, according to the document.   

While the DHS acknowledged in May 2020 that it could not legally “openly endorse” a system to flag disinformation, officials discussed establishing a Misinformation Reporting Portal in a call with Facebook two months before the EIP was launched on DHS orders under the aegis of Stanford University’s disinformation center, called the Stanford Internet Observatory.

At least four students working at the EIP through the Stanford Internet Observatory were simultaneously employed at the Cybersecurity and Internet Security Administration, a DHS subsidiary, even using their government email accounts to communicate with others involved in the partnership, according to the report. A senior director with the pro-NATO think tank Atlantic Council, whose Digital Forensics Research Lab was also part of the EIP, confirmed his organization had helped establish the EIP at DHS’ request.  

The report highlights these relationships as proof that “what the federal government could not do directly, it effectively outsourced to the newly emerging censorship-industrial complex,” arguing the purpose of the EIP was to circumvent First Amendment speech protections.

The EIP’s employees, it explains, took in “misinformation reports” – thinly veiled content takedown requests – from government agencies and other “external stakeholders,” searched the internet for examples of similar content to censor across other social media platforms, and forwarded the most significant examples to those platforms with specific advice on how to limit the content’s visibility. 

CISA’s executive director Brandon Wales denied his agency had ever “censored speech or facilitated censorship” in a statement to Fox News Digital on Monday.

A federal appeals court last month upheld an earlier ruling limiting CISA and several other government agencies including the White House under President Joe Biden from communicating with Big Tech platforms, affirming the agencies had likely violated Americans’ rights when they colluded behind the scenes to suppress constitutionally protected speech.