FBI And DHS Directors Mislead Congress About Censorship
Plus: Twitter Files journalists win prestigious Dao Prize for journalism
Over the last year, mainstream news reporters have dismissed every new revelation of government censorship. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) officials who primed social media executives to censor the Hunter Biden laptop were simply on guard for Russian disinformation, they said. White House officials who demanded that Facebook censor accurate information about Covid-19 vaccine side effects were simply trying to save lives, journalists argued. And the sweeping effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to demand, alongside academic institutes, social media censorship of Covid and election information was, a “public-private partnership” to “counter misinformation,” many reporters insisted.
But many independent journalists disagree. We and others have documented how these efforts blatantly violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which explicitly prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The FBI had Hunter Biden’s laptop in its possession since 2019 but primed social media executives in the summer of 2020 to view it instead as Russian disinformation, resulting in its censorship.
White House officials also demanded that social media companies censor accurate information about the side effects of the Covid vaccine. Facebook complied, fearing retaliation from the White House, even though executives knew that doing so would increase, not decrease, “vaccine hesitancy.”
Emails obtained through discovery in the Missouri v. Biden case revealed how officials from the federal government threatened, berated, and pressured social media companies. In light of this evidence, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals partially upheld an injunction in the Missouri v. Biden case, ruling that some government agencies had coerced platforms into censoring protected speech. And the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals viewed the sweeping public-private effort overseen by DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to censor disfavored views on vaccines and elections to be in violation of the First Amendment. The court demanded that CISA, along with the FBI, CDC, and the White House, refrain from coercing or significantly encouraging social media companies to censor users.
After this sequence of events, many rightly wondered how the heads of the various government agencies within the Censorship Industrial Complex would respond to public questioning by members of Congress. After months of anticipation, this finally occurred this week, when Senator Rand Paul interrogated DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Senator Ted Cruz similarly grilled National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan earlier this month on that agency’s distribution of millions of dollars to promote “the science of countering social media myths and disinformation as well as the development of digital tools to track and censor so-called misinformation.”
With the Censorship Industrial Complex increasingly under scrutiny, America’s leading thought police turned evasive, misleading Congress about their involvement in censorship. Why are they no longer defending the actions they once said were necessary for safety, public health, and national security?
They Know They Broke The Law
Facing difficult questions, America’s thought police are now trying to deny their well-documented role in censorship. After Sen. Paul asked if DHS had held meetings with social media companies to discuss content moderation, Mayorkas answered, “We, along with other federal agencies, have met with social media companies in a public-private partnership to speak of the threats to the homeland, so that those companies are alert to them.”