US Government Officials Sought To Censor Narratives and Interfere In 2020 Election, Newly Released Emails Show
Department of Homeland Security officials and contractors urged censorship not just of “disinformation” but of stories they didn’t like
Yesterday Public and Racket published the first installment of the CTIL Files, documents that show the birth of the Censorship Industrial Complex through the work of military and government contractors in what they called the “Cyber Threat Intelligence League,” or CTIL, for short. The story went viral on X, formerly Twitter, and on Substack. All told, the story has been viewed millions of times.
Now, newly released Department of Homeland Security (DHS) emails, obtained by the House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green and Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability Chairman Dan Bishop, suggest that the federal government’s methods of information control closely resembled those developed and promoted by CTIL. These methods amounted to an attempt at election interference.
The trove of documents obtained by Public provides a window into the real motivations behind anti-disinformation work performed by DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Far from being about protecting truth and removing falsehoods, government-backed censorship has always been about narrative control. This censorship is part of a larger political influence operation to shape public opinion and quash dissent.
US government officials deny this. In his deposition for the Missouri v. Biden censorship lawsuit, Brian Scully, the head of CISA’s Mis- Dis-, and Malinformation (MDM) team, insisted that the agency had merely engaged in “switchboarding,” not censorship. Switchboarding was a process in which CISA simply forwarded “misinformation” from election officials to social media companies. Scully and CISA claim they were not involved in companies’ decisions to censor content.
The CISA-funded non-profit, Center for Internet Security (CIS), also sent alleged misinformation to social media companies. CIS has previously claimed that its definition of election mis- and disinformation did not include “content that is polarizing, biased, partisan or contains viewpoints expressed about elections or politics,” “inaccurate statements about an elected or appointed official, candidate, or political party,” or “broad, non-specific statements about the integrity of elections or civic processes that do not reference a specific current election administration activity.”
But the DHS emails reveal that CISA and CIS did, in fact, consider such content to be subject to censorship. The emails show that CISA and its non-profit partners reported political speech to social media companies, including jokes, hyperbole, and the types of “viewpoints” and “non-specific statements” that CIS once claimed it would not censor.
Using the pretext of “election security,” DHS sought to censor politically inconvenient speech about election legitimacy. Why were officials seemingly influenced by CTIL’s approach to disfavored narratives and “cognitive security”? What precisely was going on?