Government-Funded Stanford Group Successfully Urged Censorship Of Republicans But Not Democrats For Equivalent Claims
Both Republicans and Democrats claimed election fraud, but Stanford Internet Observatory and Twitter only sanctioned Republicans
The US government-funded Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) claims that its 2020 Election Integrity Project (EIP) and its 2021 Virality Project (VP) were “non-partisan research coalitions.” They did not discriminate against Republicans or conservatives, SIO insists.
But a new tranche of SIO files requested by the House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Mark Green (R-TN), and Homeland Security Subcommittee for Oversight Chairman Dan Bishop (R-SC) reveal that SIO singled out Republicans for censorship, even though Democrats engaged in similar kinds of inaccurate or misleading speech.
One member of Congress singled out for censorship was alarmed to learn of the pattern. “In striving to silence duly elected Congressmen and prevent them from communicating with constituents,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) told Public, “this government-funded censorship network has shown itself to be a far greater threat to our representative democracy than any foreign nation.”
Representatives from Stanford Internet Observatory did not respond to a request for comment.
To see the pattern of partisan behavior, we have to go back to November 2020, when the EIP was well underway.
At 5:58 am, November 4, 2020, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-SC) tweeted, “The Silicon Valley Cartel is in on the STEAL! Censoring our President while DEMOCRATS work overtime to STEAL THIS ELECTION! I need you to join me in the fight to STOP THIS.!”
At 8:32 AM on November 4, 2020, an EIP staff person wrote a note to Twitter staff in the Jira messaging system. It read, “Twitter team - We know you are aware of the #stopthesteal push but we have gathered here some of the major contributors which according to our data // past incidents are high priority incidents… We recommend actioning these quickly.”
The EIP representative flagged the above tweet and two others. Shortly after, Twitter censored at least three of Greene’s tweets, and these tweets are still censored on the platform.
When one clicks on the arrow to the right of the tweet, which normally allows a user to copy the link, a box pops up that reads, “Why can’t you share this? We try to keep X a place for healthy conversation, so we’ve disabled most of the ways to engage with this post.”
Twitter executives acknowledged their censorship of Greene internally.
At 6:24 pm, November 4, 2020, Twitter’s senior legal counsel, Sean Edgett, emailed other Twitter executives. “We continue robust enforcement of our policies and have labeled approximately 150 Tweets for premature claims of victory,” Edgett wrote. “Additionally, we continue to label and interstitial the account of House candidate Marjorie Taylor Green for violations of our policies.”
Defenders of the censorship advocacy by Stanford sometimes argue that only Republicans made false statements about the elections. SIO has said that Republicans and Trump supporters simply spread more falsehoods. “EIP’s research determined that accounts that supported President Trump’s inaccurate assertions around the election included more false statements than other accounts,” wrote SIO.
But many Democrats, including Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams, have claimed, without evidence, that Republicans have stolen elections. For example, in May 2020, Abrams wrote on Twitter that “the GOP wins by impeding eligible citizens from voting.”
But where Twitter executives throttled Greene’s tweet, which cannot be shared, Abrams’ tweet has over 1,2000 retweets.
It’s true that Abrams made her claim before EIP had been created. But other Democrats claimed election fraud while EIP was operational.
“Feeling oddly thankful that @staceyabrams had her own election stolen from her so that she had time to save America,” tweeted actor Edward Norton on January 6, 2021. “@staceyabrams had her election stolen from her,” tweeted woman’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe the same day.
Twitter censored neither the tweet by Norton nor by Rapinoe, even though they made accusations nearly identical to Greene’s.
EIP analysts might say that by January 2021, they only researched the 2020 election, not actively flagging content about other elections. But the partisan bias of SIO can also be seen in its approach to Covid. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and many Democratic officials made inaccurate claims about the ability of the Covid vaccine to prevent infection and transmission, yet the VP never flagged them.
In the summer of 2021, when VP was searching for Covid misinformation to report, Democrats like Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and California Governor Gavin Newsom pushed the misleading narrative that only unvaccinated people could spread Covid and that there was a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
They made these claims well after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had admitted that “breakthrough infections” were common in vaccinated people. If VP cared about accuracy and objectivity, it would have recognized that this Democrat-driven narrative was not based on solid national data. As Rochelle Walensky said last June, the CDC never had aggregate Covid vaccination and hospitalization data.
When Twitter censored Greene, she accused the platform of violating the First Amendment. Internally, Twitter executives dismissed her allegation and told themselves that Greene was wrong. However there is strong evidence that the Department of Homeland Security created EIP and VP to demand censorship on its behalf. What’s more, two of the university partners involved in EIP and VP received considerable funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is part of the federal government.
The exchanges between VP, EIP, and social media platforms raise a troubling question: Was SIO acting on behalf of the federal government when it demanded censorship of elected Republicans?
Partisan Weaponization Of Government To Coerce Censorship
Public previously reported that the idea for the EIP came from DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The above request by SIO that Twitter censor Rep. Greene tagged the DHS’ “Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center.”
The Twitter Files reveal a close relationship between DHS officials and Twitter executives. On Sat, Oct 24, 2020, senior DHS official Matthew Masterson emailed a top censor at Twitter, Yoel Roth. “Any chance you are willing to share a phone number so [CISA] Dir. [Chris] Krebs can reach out?”
Perhaps recognizing that the contact violated the First Amendment, Masterson added, “I understand if you aren’t comfortable doing that and would prefer he email.”
Roth responded by giving Masterson his phone number.
While Public has reported over the last two weeks on Stanford’s censorship efforts, this is the first time anyone has documented the clear partisan and ideological bias. VP even internally labeled some posts as simply “right-wing,” which suggests that SIO’s explicit intention was to censor for viewpoints.