The federal government cannot routinely censor Americans, under the limits imposed by the First Amendment. But during the 2020 election season it apparently did, by telling a private group which messages it disliked, and that group’s complaints then prompted Big Tech to suppress those statements.
Now a key GOP leader is vowing an aggressive investigation, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, as a candidate to be House Speaker if Republicans become the House majority in November, would be in a position to do exactly that.
It is Just the News that reported McCarthy, R-Calif., said, “I have long been critical of the attempts by Big Tech to censor voices the federal government tells them to. Whether directly through their proposed so-called ‘Disinformation Governance Board’ or indirectly by using private groups to do the government’s bidding, these are fundamental violations of the First Amendment — the foundation of our free society. ”
He said holding both ends of that scheme – the government and Big Tech – accountable would be among his goals.
McCarthy was responding to Just the News’ revelations about how the departments of State and Homeland Security set up a program so they could tell a private consortium which messages they didn’t like, and that consortium then lobbied social media to censor them during the 2020 election.
Just the News confirmed the vast campaign “impacted over 4,800 web URLs, 20 news organizations, two dozen conservative influencers such as Sean Hannity, Charlie Kirk, and Mark Levin and nearly 22 million social media posts.”
McCarthy said the strategy, which preceded the failed plans by the Biden administration to create a “Disinformation Governance Board,” was both troubling and a violation of the Constitution. Plans for that board were dropped because of the public outrage its proposal triggered.
The report said Republicans already are taking steps to prepare for such an investigation. If the GOP is the House Majority, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., is a candidate to chair the House Oversight Committee.
Just the News reported he’s preparing notifications to parties to preserve evidence.
And Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., a key member of the House Homeland Security Committee, is working on legislation that would explicitly outlaw federal involvement in any Big Tech censorship.
There also are lawsuits possible.
WND had reported on the initial revelations about the censorship plan.
It was assembled to have four private organizations take orders from leftists and then complain to Big Tech corporations, triggering them to censor the messages.
Those private groups “then got rewarded with millions of federal dollars from the Biden administration afterward,” documents confirmed.
It was the Stanford Internet Observatory, the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, and social media analytics firm Graphika who assembled a “concierge-like service.”
Under its guidelines federal agencies like Homeland’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency and State’s Global Engagement Center were allowed to file “tickets” requesting that specific online store links and social media posts be censored or flagged by Big Tech, the report said.
That service also was provided to the Democratic National Committee, Common Cause, and the NAACP, as well as the Homeland-funded collaboration, called the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
The operation itself boasted of sending out information-suppression instructions on more than 4,800 URLs – share nearly 22 million times on Twitter alone – for social media platforms to take action.
“The tickets sought removal, throttling and labeling of content that raised questions about mail-in ballot integrity, Arizona’s ‘Sharpiegate,’ and other election integrity issues of concern to conservatives,” Just the News reported.
Social media companies responded by taking “action” on 35% of the flagged URLs, labeling 21% of them and removing 13%. Another 1% had a warning posted on them.
The program did for the government entities what they were not allowed constitutionally to do themselves, as Just the News explained, “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from passing any laws that abridge free speech, and courts have ruled that prohibition extends to federal agencies funded by the legislative branch.”
And the participants were keenly aware they were doing an end run.
“For instance, SIO’s Renee DiResta said in a CISA Cybersecurity Summit video in 2021 that the operation faced ‘unclear legal authorities’ and ‘very real First Amendment questions.’ She joined SIO from a firm exposed by The New York Times for creating a ‘false flag’ operation’ against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.”
Just the News reported many of the details about the scheming were uncovered by Mike Benz, a former State Department official who assembled the Foundation for Freedom Online to advocate for free speech globally.
“If you trace the chronology, you find that there was actually 18 months’ worth of institutional work to create this very apparatus that we now know played a significant role in the censorship of millions of posts for the 2020 election and has ambitious sights for 2022 and 2024,” he said. “Amazingly, there are now so many Ministry of Truth functionaries within the Department of Homeland Security. There are so many Ministry of Truth tasks, so many Ministry of Truth points of contact, so many different Ministry of Truth policies for whether to remove something, reduce it, slap a fact-checking label on it.”