The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was founded by the Bush Administration in response to 9/11. As one of the country’s many ‘national security’ agencies, its original remit was counter-terrorism (i.e., to pre-empt threats from Al-Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups).
Since then, however, the DHS’s remit has expanded considerably – as a new investigation by the Intercept reveals.
Based on leaks and documents obtained from an ongoing lawsuit, Ken Klippenstein and Lee Fang lay bare what many have long suspected: Big Tech is collaborating with the DHS and other ‘national security’ agencies to censor social media – often with a nakedly partisan agenda.
Following the rise of ISIS in 2014, Big Tech began collaborating with the DHS to monitor and remove social media accounts linked to terrorism. So far, so good, you might say.
Yet the defeat of ISIS “left the homeland security apparatus without a target”, note Klippenstein and Fang. “Meanwhile, a new threat entered the discourse. The allegation that Russian agents had seeded disinformation on Facebook that tipped the 2016 election toward Donald Trump.”
This led to the formation of a ‘Foreign Influence Task Force’, which aims to curb “subversive data utilised to drive a wedge between the populace and the Government”.
The DHS remit then expanded beyond “disinformation” produced by foreign governments to include “disinformation” produced by domestic actors. Officials’ stated justification for this fairly blatant mission creep was that terror threats can be “exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation spread online”.
According to documents reviewed by Klippenstein and Fang, the DHS aims to counteract “inaccurate information” on a wide range of topics, including “the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, racial justice, U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the nature of U.S. support to Ukraine”.
And one of the ways it does this is by coordinating with Big Tech, i.e., telling companies like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to censor information it considers “inaccurate”.
The Intercept even found evidence of a special-purpose portal that could be used by Government agents to make “requests” about information on Facebook to which they objected.
One of the most egregious cases of Big Tech censoring social media at the behest of the U.S. Government concerns the Hunter Biden laptop story – published in the New York Post shortly before the 2020 election.
Fifty former intelligence officials came out to say the story was “Russian disinformation”. (This allegation was later proven false when various emails from the laptop were authenticated.) Nevertheless, both Twitter and Facebook throttled users’ ability to view or share the story in the weeks leading up to election day.
Mark Zuckerberg later told Joe Rogan that Facebook had been contacted by the FBI and told to beware of “Russian disinformation”.
It’s increasingly obvious that terms like ‘disinformation’ and ‘misinformation’ are simply tools used by the U.S. Government and its allies in Big Tech to justify banning information that runs counter to prevailing narratives. Klippenstein and Fang’s exposé contains many other interesting details, and is worth reading in full.