A House Judiciary Committee report, as per exclusive details to the New York Post, alleges that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was involved in a censorship effort ahead of the 2020 elections through a Stanford University group known as the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP).
The report was detailed in a series of posts by Rep. Jim Jordan on X.
According to the report, new emails reveal that EIP collaborated with DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to flag and potentially suppress speech, with a slant that favored one political side over another.
The 103-page report presents internal communications showing how the federal government and universities exerted pressure on social media companies to curtail expressions, with significant instances of conservative voices being labeled as misinformation. The emails suggest that even jokes and legitimate political opinions were subject to this suppression.
“[T]he federal government and universities pressured social media companies to censor true information, jokes, and political opinions,” the report states. “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.”
One example includes an email from a partner at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, outlining CISA's pivotal role in these censorship activities. The report argues that such actions by CISA and the EIP were directed at censoring American citizens' political discourse during the election lead-up.
“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,” the lab’s senior director Graham Brookie wrote, per the New York Post.
CISA, as detailed in the report, had to employ indirect methods for content removal, as it could not openly endorse such actions. This led to the practice of "switchboarding," where CISA would forward removal requests from state and local officials to social media platforms.
Despite the voluntary nature of these requests, as mentioned in the emails, there was an implicit suggestion that non-compliance could result in law enforcement involvement.
The former director of CISA, Chris Krebs, testified that "switchboarding" predated the agency, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has stated that the agency has discontinued this practice.
Notably, the report mentions that Stanford students were involved in both CISA and EIP, with some using government email accounts for communication related to EIP's operations.
In defense, CISA's executive director, Brandon Wales, stated that the agency has never engaged in censorship and that its efforts are focused on protecting U.S. infrastructure while respecting Americans' freedom of speech and privacy.
The report further reveals that the "disinfo" organization, led by Stanford's Internet Observatory and supported by academic partnerships, had direct communication with Homeland Security and State Department officials. The SIO's aim was to facilitate coordination between election officials, DHS, and social media companies in addressing disinformation.
Alex Stamos, director of SIO and former Facebook chief security officer, indicated in his testimony the perceived risk of coordinating with a law enforcement agency like the FBI, suggesting that it could be interpreted as a coercive threat to public companies.