The Election Integrity Partnership was established by the Department of Homeland Security as an online disinformation group during 2020 election season, according to a report published by the House Judiciary Committee. The DHS operated this group through a network of think tanks and academic institutions to allegedly censor conservative speech. The report claimed that almost all of the group’s censorship efforts were directed at true information, jokes, and political opinions posted by conservative social media users, while turning a blind eye to false information posted by liberals. The true goal of this partnership was to censor Americans engaged in core political speech in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
The report named several prominent figures whose posts were flagged as misinformation, including then-President Donald Trump, Senator Thom Tillis, Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Thomas Massie, the satire site the Babylon Bee, and the conservative media outlet Newsmax. This deliberate effort to censor content raised concerns about First Amendment speech protections.
The DHS acknowledged the possibility of establishing a Misinformation Reporting Portal in a call with Facebook two months before the Election Integrity Partnership was launched under the help of Stanford University’s disinformation center, the Stanford Internet Observatory. The collaboration between the DHS and Stanford University raised further questions about the transparency and legality of the partnership’s efforts.
The report also highlighted the fact that at least four students working at the Election Integrity Partnership through the Stanford Internet Observatory were employed at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a DHS subsidiary. These students even used their government email accounts to communicate with others involved in the partnership. Additionally, a senior director with the pro-NATO think tank, Atlantic Council, confirmed that his organization had helped establish the EIP at DHS’ request, further blurring the lines between governmental agencies and external organizations in the effort to suppress speech.
The report highlighted these relationships as proof that the federal government effectively outsourced censorship efforts to the newly emerging censorship-industrial complex, while attempting to circumvent First Amendment speech protections. Employees of the Election Integrity Partnership were responsible for taking in misinformation reports, searching the internet for similar content to censor across other social media platforms, and forwarding examples of significant content to those platforms with specific advice on how to limit the content’s visibility. This raises questions about the extent and reach of the censorship-industrial complex in controlling public discourse.
However, the executive director of CISA, Brandon Wales, denied any claims of censorship or facilitating censorship in a statement to Fox News Digital. This denial contrasts the evidence outlined in the report and further raises concerns about the transparency and accountability of actors involved in these censorship efforts. Additionally, a federal appeals court’s ruling last month upheld an earlier decision limiting government agency communications with Big Tech platforms, affirming that agencies had likely violated rights by collaborating to suppress constitutionally protected speech.
In conclusion, the partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and other think tanks and academic institutions to suppress conservative speech raises major concerns about free speech protections and the boundaries between governmental agencies and external organizations. The deliberate effort to censor public discourse ahead of the 2020 election calls for a more transparent and accountable approach to online speech regulation.