DHS Censorship Agency Had Strange First Mission: Banning Speech That Casts Doubt On ‘Red Mirage, Blue Shift’ Election Events

Last week, The Intercept published a set of leaks that drew broad interest in perhaps the most undercovered scandal inside the US government today: the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) quiet move to establish, for the first time in US history, an explicitly inward-facing domestic censorship bureau.

What The Intercept glimpsed, however, is just the tip of a much larger iceberg.

The size, scale and speed of DHS’s censorship operation are vastly larger have been reported. Based on our investigation, below are seven bottom-line figures summarizing the scope of censorship carried out by DHS speech control partners, as compiled from their own reports and videos:

  • 22 Million tweets labeled “misinformation” on Twitter;
  • 859 Million tweets collected in databases for “misinformation” analysis;
  • 120 analysts monitoring social media “misinformation” in up to 20-hour shifts;
  • 15 tech platforms monitored for “misinformation” often in real-time;
  • <1 hour average response time between government partners and tech platforms;
  • Dozens of “misinformation narratives” targeted for platform-wide throttling; and
  • Hundreds of millions of individual Facebook posts, YouTube videos, TikToks, and tweets impacted, due to “misinformation” Terms of Service policy changes that DHS partners openly plotted and bragged tech companies would never have done without DHS partner insistence and “huge regulatory pressure” from government.

The citations above are from just the DHS censorship network’s impact on the 2020 election cycle alone. That was two years ago, when the narrative management machine referenced by The Intercept was first getting formed. Even the above figures, however, just scratch the surface of the full story.

While The Intercept rightly noted that DHS’s “truth cops“ now take on a range of other topics – such as Covid-19 and geopolitical opinions – it all started from, and grew out of, DHS’s speech control infrastructure set up to censor speech about elections.

That started with the 2020 election. But it continues, importantly, with the 2022 midterm elections, which are ongoing this week.

At Foundation for Freedom Online, for more than six months, we have been publishing and sharing research findings about a wide span of shocking components to DHS’s speech control operations. Our investigation has spurred multiple members of Congress to vow aggressive probes into DHS’s “government censorship by proxy.”

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The Quiet Merger Between Online Platforms and the National Security State Continues

The steady march of the post-2016 tech censorship campaign has been picking up pace lately, and we’ve just learned of another leap forward. According to recent major reporting from the Intercept, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been involved in efforts aimed at corralling what it refers to as “MDM”: misinformation, disinformation, and “malinformation.”

Documents obtained and made publicly available by the news outlet show that the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been formulating a strategy to combat MDM regarding US elections and other matters. While seemingly unobjectionable on the surface ― who could be against combating false information, which is rife online? ― it raises serious questions about the extent of government involvement in the already-troubling phenomenon of tech censorship.

The conversations detailed in the documents show the federal government, and the DHS specifically, taking a more active role in tech companies’ efforts to suppress MDM. We’ve had some indications this was happening for a while, as when DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC in August that the government was “working with the tech companies” on “strengthen[ing] the legitimate use of their very powerful platforms and prevent[ing] harm from occurring,” and that it was doing so “across the federal enterprise” ― comments that were only reported in right-wing media.

The documents give us details about what that work has entailed. In these discussions, the government did not directly carry out censorship. Rather, they involved government agencies: doing “debunking” and “pre-bunking”; directing the press, local and state governments, and other stakeholders to “trusted resources”; carrying out “rumor control”; boosting “trusted authoritative sources”; giving financial support to its external partners; and improving information literacy. Much of the focus is on elections, with participants talking about using these resources to prevent people being misled about how, where, and when to vote, and stressing that CISA should strictly be a “resource” that at most uses its “convening power.”

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Who Authorized the Department of Homeland Security to Police Online Speech? Not Congress

When George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act in 2002, the goal was to improve national security by strengthening government at various levels and helping them identify and respond to threats, particularly terrorism.

”The continuing threat of terrorism, the threat of mass murder on our own soil, will be met with a unified, effective response,” said Bush. ”Dozens of agencies charged with homeland security will now be located within one cabinet department with the mandate and legal authority to protect our people.”

The law contained “severe privacy and civil liberties problems,” the ACLU argued, but the legislation enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Only nine Senators voted against it (eight Democrats and one Independent).

Bush tapped Tom Ridge as the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, but public policy experts admitted it was unclear precisely what the new department would do.

”The first challenge is to lower expectations,” Paul C. Light of the Brookings Institution told The New York Times. ”People should think they will be safer, but remember we have a long way to go.”

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How the government hid the truth behind Hunter Biden’s laptop

The more we find out about the collusion that has been going on among the Biden administration, the security agencies and Big Tech, the more alarming it is — and the more unrepentant they are.

The latest bombshell from The Intercept, based on communications unveiled in the federal lawsuit Missouri v. Biden, shows that the Department of Homeland Security has been having monthly meetings with Facebook and Twitter to pressure them to censor social-media posts about topics such as the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, the origins of COVID-19, the efficacy of COVID vaccines, racial justice and US support for the war in Ukraine — In other words, anything that could be detrimental to public support for the Biden administration.

We already know that the FBI was involved in efforts to censor and bury information that might have harmed Joe Biden’s candidacy back in 2020, including The Post’s exclusive about Hunter Biden’s laptop in October 2020. That amounted to election interference, which successfully prevented the American people from doing the necessary due diligence on one of the two candidates for president. So successful was the strategy that the Biden administration appears to have expanded it.

Security agencies have switched their attention from combating foreign disinformation to censoring the speech of American citizens who dissent from the government-approved narrative. No matter that free speech is protected by the First Amendment; if the Biden administration doesn’t like the speech, they label it “Misinformation, Disinformation and Malformation,” and they are deputizing the FBI and DHS to strong­arm Big Tech to censor it and de-platform serial offenders.

It doesn’t matter what brand your politics is, this is Stasi stuff.

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Destroying Western Values To Defend Western Values

So it turns out the US intelligence cartel has been working intimately with online platforms to regulate the “cognitive infrastructure” of the population. This is according to a new investigative report by The Intercept, based on documents obtained through leaks and an ongoing lawsuit, on the “retooling” of the Department of Homeland Security from an agency focused on counterterrorism to one increasingly focused on fighting “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation” online.

While the DHS’s hotly controversial “Disinformation Governance Board” was shut down in response to public outcry, the Intercept report reveals what authors Lee Fang and Ken Klippenstein describe as “an expansive effort by the agency to influence tech platforms” in order to “curb speech it considers dangerous”:

According to a draft copy of DHS’s Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, DHS’s capstone report outlining the department’s strategy and priorities in the coming years, the department plans to target “inaccurate information” on a wide range of topics, including “the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, racial justice, U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the nature of U.S. support to Ukraine.”

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DHS is spending millions to combat “misinformation” and “disinformation”

Despite shutting down its “Disinformation Governance Board” after First Amendment violation concerns, the United States (US) Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is still handing out millions in grants in order to combat “misinformation,” “disinformation,” and “conspiracy theories.”

The DHS has previously claimed that online misinformation is a terror threat and these grants were made in a similar vein and doled out as part of a “Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program.”

In total, over $3 million of taxpayer money was handed over to universities, think tanks, and nonprofits who will use the money to fund projects that fight what they deem to be misinformation and disinformation.

The University of Rhode Island was given $701,612 for its “Media Literacy and Online Critical Thinking Initiatives” and “Youth Resilience Programs.” The description for this grant claims that “disinformation, conspiracy theories, and propaganda have become large-scale social problems” and says that part of the funds from the grant will be used for “online and face-to-face dialogues [that] help demonstrate how to critically analyze propaganda, disinformation, and domestic extremism.”

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a quasi-government entity and think tank that produces research that informs public policy, was granted $750,000 for its “Raising Societal Awareness,” “Civic Engagement,” and “Media Literacy and Online Critical Thinking” initiatives. The grant will be used to “develop an educational digital game and supportive materials for educating students in secondary schools in Northeast Washington Educational Service District 101 (ESD 101) in Washington State on disinformation.” The game and its learning program will “help students understand different strategies used to spread disinformation by malignant actors” and provide “a hands-on learning experience around strategies and policies to combat disinformation at the institutional level.”

The Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication was awarded $592,598 for an “extended reality” (XR) project which covers virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. The grant description claims that “terrorist recruiters and violent extremists will “most certainly target new forms of technology for their efforts to spread conspiracy theories, air grievances, and to craft misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.” The project will create and test “Media Literacy interventions focused on Harmful Information in virtual spaces, to inform the prevention of extremism and violent content in the metaverse.”

The nonprofit International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD) was given $750,000 to “inculcate resilience against the spread of disinformation and its divisive effects by making faith actors a part of the solution.” Tech company Moonshot will provide insights on “specific trends around disinformation and the spread of violence inciting narratives.” This data will be used by the ICRD to design workshops that build “societal resilience” where communities can “evaluate the meaning of religious disinformation for their future.”

The Carter Center, a nongovernmental nonprofit founded by former President Jimmy Carter, was awarded $99,372 for “Media Literacy and Online Critical Thinking Initiatives.” As part of these initiatives, The Carter Center will partner with Syracuse University to “demonstrate the effectiveness of its media literacy curriculum in mitigating the harms presented by dis-, misinformation.” Through this partnership, The Carter Center intends to roll out its curriculum modules in multiple classroom settings and target a wide population aged 18-60. The description for this grant claims that media literacy trainings build capacities in “recognizing false and misleading information.”

Lewis University was given $157,707 for “Media Literacy and Online Critical Thinking Initiatives.” It plans to use some of this grant money to “maintain and improve” its H2I (How2Inform) website which currently consists of content it says is “helpful in combating misinformation.” The description for this grant claims that “free tools and resources will be provided equitably to communities within the state to help combat online misinformation.”

The DHS awarded these misinformation and disinformation grants last month alongside another $699,763 grant to Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC) which was given to study “extremism” in gaming.

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Outsourced censorship: Feds used private entity to target millions of social posts in 2020

Aconsortium of four private groups worked with the departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State to censor massive numbers of social media posts they considered misinformation during the 2020 election, and its members then got rewarded with millions of federal dollars from the Biden administration afterwards, according to interviews and documents obtained by Just the News.

The Election Integrity Partnership is back in action again for the 2022 midterm elections, raising concerns among civil libertarians that a chilling new form of public-private partnership to evade the First Amendment’s prohibition of government censorship may be expanding.

The consortium is comprised of four member organizations: Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, and social media analytics firm Graphika. It set up a concierge-like service in 2020 that allowed federal agencies like Homeland’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and State’s Global Engagement Center to file “tickets” requesting that online story links and social media posts be censored or flagged by Big Tech.  

Three liberal groups — the Democratic National Committee, Common Cause and the NAACP — were also empowered like the federal agencies to file tickets seeking censorship of content. A Homeland-funded collaboration, the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, also had access.

In its own after-action report on the 2020 election, the consortium boasted it flagged more than 4,800 URLs — shared nearly 22 million times on Twitter alone — for social media platforms. Their staff worked 12-20 hour shifts from September through mid-November 2020, with “monitoring intensif[ying] significantly” the week before and after Election Day.

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DHS to spend almost $700,000 of taxpayers’ cash on studying “extremism” in video gaming

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded researchers a $699,768 grant to investigate extremism in gaming.

As reported by VICE, the money will go to Logically, a company committed to the issue of “bad” online behavior, Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC), and Take This, a nonprofit that specializes in mental health in video gaming.

“Over the past decade, video games have increasingly become focal points of social activity and identity creation for adolescents and young adults. Relationships made and fostered within game ecosystems routinely cross over into the real world and are impactful parts of local communities,” the grant announcement on the DHS website said. “Correspondingly, extremists have used video games and targeted video game communities for activities ranging from propaganda creation to terrorist mobilization and training.”

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DHS: “Radicalized” Americans who believe “false narratives” online are the new terror threat

The War on Terror. You might have thought that it started in 2001, with the shocking tragedy of 9/11, and also – the shockwaves that reverberated throughout societies (in terms of how the way of life irrevocably changed from airport travel, to what can and can’t be expressed online.)

And that it’s over.

Well, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas doesn’t seem to be on board with such “ideations” of a return to the normal.

There’s apparently ever more “enemies” to be dealt with, hinted the head of the agency – the same agency that had its figurative “ass” handed to it earlier in the year with the failed attempt to impose a censorship overlord agency in the shape of a “disinformation board.

Post 9/11, Mayorkas said on the anniversary of the attacks, the enemy was the individual.

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Homeland Security officially terminates agency’s Disinformation Governance Board

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has terminated the agency’s Disinformation Governance Board and rescinded its charter.

Mayorkas officially ended the Department Homeland Security board Wednesday after the DHS advisory committee issued an interim recommendation last month that “there is no need” for the board.

The latest advisory report released Wednesday stated: “There is no need for a separate Disinformation Governance Board. But it is our assessment that the underlying work of Department components on this issue is critical.”

Homeland Security does not ” have the authority to silence or sanction anyone’s speech,” but should instead focus on determining whether “publicly disseminated disinformation impedes missions assigned to the agency” and “disseminating correct information,” the advisory council stated.

“With the HSAC recommendations as a guide, the Department will continue to address threat streams that undermine the security of our country consistent with the law, while upholding the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of the American people and promoting transparency in our work,” Homeland Security stated.

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