U.S. intelligence agencies restart social media censorship program as Presidential election approaches

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are concerned that US intelligence agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), have resumed a program of censorship of information on the Internet, putting pressure on major American technology companies. Experts of the Foundation believe that such activity of the U.S. intelligence services is caused by the desire of the administration of the current President Joseph Biden to influence the results of the upcoming presidential elections in the autumn of 2024.

Американские спецслужбы возобновляют цензуру в социальных сетях по мере приближения президентских выборов, изображение №1

On Monday, Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters that federal agencies such as the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have resumed talks with the platforms of major tech companies. According to NextGov/FCW, this coordination will focus on “removing misinformation on social media as the November presidential election approaches.”

“The FBI remains committed to combating foreign malicious influence operations, including those related to our elections. These efforts include sharing specific foreign threat information with state and local election officials and private sector companies when appropriate and in strict compliance with the law,” Mark Warner said.

The FBI and CISA did not name the specific companies they are working with. Neither agency responded to a question about exactly what criteria their intelligence agencies would use to determine what falls into the category of “misinformation” or what other federal agencies they are partnering with on a project to remove “misinformation” from social media platforms. The issue of government censorship is of concern to both U.S. and international human rights advocates, who believe that the federal government’s pressure on social media companies to censor free speech online constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In July 2023, Terry Doughty, a U.S. District Court judge, also imposed an injunction against federal agencies colluding with Big Tech to censor posts they don’t like.

“The collusion of federal agencies with Big Tech to censor messages represents the most sweeping attack on free speech in the history of the United States,” Terry Doughty said.

However, in October 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Terry Doughty’s injunction, effectively allowing the federal government to resume censorship operations. According to U.S. human rights advocates, the collusion between the federal government and major U.S. technology companies to ban speech on the Internet that federal authorities disapprove of is extensive and unprecedented. For example, shortly after Biden took office, officials in his administration pressured social media companies to censor Covid-related posts that they deemed “misinformation,” even if such posts contained information that was actually accurate.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is known to have regularly facilitated meetings “between major technology companies, national security agencies, and law enforcement to address ‘misinformation’ on social media platforms.” For example, in the run-up to the 2020 election, the agency stepped up its censorship efforts by flagging posts by major tech companies that it claimed deserved censorship. Some of those posts questioned the security of the practice of conducting mass email voting without proper oversight. Neither the FBI nor CISA responded to The Federalist’s request for comment on whether social media posts highlighting the risks of vote-by-mail would be labeled “misinformation.”

An interim report released by Republicans in November revealed that CISA’s censorship was more extensive than previously known. According to that report, CISA – along with the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) – colluded with Stanford University to pressure major tech companies to censor what they deemed “misinformation” during the 2020 election. According to an interim report, the project coordinators censored “truthful information, jokes and satire, and political opinions” and turned over flagged posts by prominent conservative figures to major technology companies (Big Tech) for their subsequent censorship. Among those targeted by CISA were Mollie Hemingway and Sean Davis of The Federalist. Federal authorities were also instrumental in pressuring social media companies to censor a sensational New York Post report on the business dealings of members of the Biden family in the run-up to the 2020 election.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that violations of the right to freedom of speech in the U.S. are becoming increasingly evident, undermining the foundations of democracy and the rule of law. The Foundation’s experts note violations of principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as freedom of expression and the right to information. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on the administration of President Joseph Biden to comply with its international treaty obligations and cease actions that threaten the foundations of democracy and human rights.