By Katabella Roberts
The U.S. government “coordinated” with Stanford University and other entities to censor Americans’ speech in the lead-up to the 2020 election, according to a new report from the House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
According to the Nov. 6 report, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Global Engagement Center—an agency within the Bureau of Global Public Affairs at the State Department—coordinated with Stanford University and other colleges to create what was known as the “Election Integrity Partnership” (EIP) in 2020 to “provide a way for the federal government to launder its censorship activities in hopes of bypassing both the First Amendment and public scrutiny.”
The EIP consisted of members from the Stanford Internet Observatory, the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, Graphika, and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, according to the report, which is based on emails and internal communications between EIP members.
Known as “external stakeholders,” the members, which allegedly included the federal government, “submitted misinformation reports directly to the EIP,” according to the report, before the EIP’s “misinformation analysts” allegedly scoured the internet for further examples of similar content for censorship.
The EIP routinely sent the “most significant” flagged content from social media directly to social media companies with “specific recommendations on how social media platforms should censor the posts,” the report found.
“The federal government and universities pressured social media companies to censor true information, jokes, and political opinions,” the report stated, noting that the censorship focused predominantly on conservative Americans.
“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 stated.
The report, citing internal emails, states that the EIP was created “at the request of DHS/CISA” and that the government agency “had access to the inner workings of the EIP, including incoming misinformation reports.”
Emails cited in the report include communications between CISA officials and social media companies including Facebook and Twitter, now known as X, including one in which CISA “directly opined on whether a flagged post constituted ‘misinformation’ in the eyes of CISA.”
That is despite CISA emails including a disclaimer that it “neither has nor seeks the ability to remove what information is made available on social media platforms,” according to the report.
“While CISA did not directly report content to the EIP, CISA had complete visibility on what was being reported to the EIP and at the same time was reporting the same content directly to the social media platforms,” the report states.
One email cited in the report dated July 31, 2020, was sent by Graham Brookie, vice president and senior director at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, one of EIP’s founding partners, and briefly details CISA’s role in the alleged 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,” Mr. Brookie wrote.
Another email dated September 2020 from CISA shows Twitter took “action on one of the tweets in an EIP ticket,” referring to a flagged content report, according to the report.
“Evidently Director [Chris] Krebs personally reached out to [Stanford Internet Observatory head Alex] Stamos asking what had happened around this event around the time the content was taken down,” the report stated. “In internal Atlantic Council email exchanges around this time, EIP members stated that ‘Krebs CISA is texting Stamos with some regularity.'”
According to the report, CISA’s Countering Foreign Influence Task Force used a process known as “switchboarding,” which lawmakers on the committee and its select subcommittee described 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.”
CISA Knew of ‘Serious Legal, Constitutional Concerns’
Brian Scully, head of CISA’s Countering Foreign Influence Task Force, testified during his deposition in Missouri v. Biden in September that switchboarding was “CISA’s role in forwarding reporting received from election officials … to social media platforms,” the report stated.
Missouri and Louisiana filed a lawsuit last year against the Biden administration for allegedly colluding with social media giants to suppress Americans’ free speech.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in September ruled that the Biden administration “likely violated the First Amendment” in some of its communications with social media firms regarding the removal of various election-related posts online.
“Documents and information obtained by the Committee and the Select Subcommittee reveal that CISA knew serious legal and constitutional concerns were implicated by switchboarding,” the report states. “CISA’s inclusion of a lengthy—and ever-changing—legal disclaimer betrays that internally the agency understood that there were serious legal questions with the federal government’s engaging in this type of direct communication with social media platforms regarding Americans’ posts and content.”
The report goes on to state that internal emails and other communications obtained by the committee and select subcommittee via a subpoena “show clearly that the EIP system was designed to operate as a unit, not as a separate entity from DHS.”
A number of university students were also allegedly involved with the EIP, according to the report, including at least four students who 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.”
Responding to the report’s findings Monday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, branded it a “bombshell” report revealing how the federal government, so-called disinformation “experts” at universities, Big Tech, and others worked together to “monitor and censor Americans’ speech” ahead of the 2020 election.
Trump and Others ‘Targeted’
Responding to the report’s findings on Nov. 6, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said multiple individuals were “targeted” via the alleged censorship campaign, including former President Donald Trump, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and conservative commentators such as Sean Hannity, Mollie Hemingway, and Charlie Kirk.
A number of entities, including Newsmax and the Babylon Bee, were also targeted, according to the Ohio lawmaker.
The report said “an untold number of everyday Americans of all political affiliations” were also targeted.
Billionaire businessman and X owner Elon Musk called the report “a big deal” but didn’t comment further. Mr. Musk purchased Twitter in October 2022.
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.”
“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,” the CISA executive director added.