Time for Republicans to take apart Biden’s censorship bureaus
On Dec. 19, journalist Michael Shellenberger released another batch of Twitter files highlighting further details by Twitter’s decision to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story in Oct. 2020 just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, which revealed Biden’s business dealings with China, Ukraine and others as a potential pay-for-play operation directed at his father, President Joe Biden.
In the months leading up to the 2020 election, the FBI had repeatedly briefed Twitter and Facebook about “hack-and-dump” leak operations by foreign adversaries like Russia to interfere in the election. It cited the 2016 publication of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) emails in July 2016 on Wikileaks after Russia allegedly hacked the emails.
In one Oct 14 email, Nick Pickles, Twitter’s head of global government affairs stated in an email thread labeled “PRIVILEGED – Hacked Materials updates source-of-truth” that briefings from “government sources… about the source of the hard drive” supported the conclusion the contents were stolen: “the seemingly well-timed briefings from Gov[ernment] sources highlighting concerns about the source of the hard drive, which would support an assessment that it’s neither whistleblower or dissident content.”
That was agreeing with Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of Trust and Safety, who stated, “The key factor informing our approach is consensus from experts monitoring election security and disinformation that this looks a lot like a hack-and-leak that learned from the 2016 Wikileaks approach and our policy changes. The suggestion from experts – which rings true is there was a hack that happened, and they loaded the hacked materials on the laptop that magically appeared at a repair shop in Delaware (and was coincidentally reviewed in a very invasive way by someone who coincidentally then handed the materials to Rudy Giuliani). Given the sever risks we saw in this space in 2016, we’re recommending a warning + deamplification pending further information.”
Later, Roth has since confirmed that the government briefings played a significant role in Twitter’s decision-making, telling Kara Swisher, “It set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 [Advanced Persistent Threat group] hack-and-leap campaign alarm bells.” APT28 refers to one of the groups allegedly responsible for the 2016 DNC hacks that the FBI had been repeatedly warning Twitter about.
On the Joe Rogan Show on Aug. 25, Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the FBI had approached Facebook with a similar general warning but not about that specific New York Post story, stating, “The background here is that the FBI came to us – some folks on our team – and was like ‘hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election, we have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump that’s similar to that’. So just be vigilant.”
But when specifically asked if they told him to be on guard about that story, Zuckerberg replied, “No, I don’t remember if it was that specifically but it was – it basically fit the pattern.”
Zuckerberg added, “if the FBI which I still view is as a legitimate institution in this country — it’s a very, very professional law enforcement — they come to us and tell us that we need to be on guard about something then I want to take that seriously.”
An Oct. 10, 2022 filing by Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt office notes that section chief of the FBI Foreign Influence Task Force Laura Dehmlow and cyber branch head of the San Francisco FBI field office Elvis Chan were “involved in the communications between the FBI and Meta that led to Facebook’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.”
On Nov. 29, 2022 Schmitt’s office, and also the office of Louisiana Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry deposed Chan in a federal suit brought by both states against the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. Schmitt told Fox News Digital, “Since filing our lawsuit, we’ve uncovered troves of discovery that show a massive ‘censorship enterprise.’ … Now, we’re deposing top government officials, and we’re one of the first to get a look under the hood — the information we’ve uncovered through those depositions has been shocking to say the least. It’s clear from Tuesday’s deposition that the FBI has an extremely close role in working to censor freedom of speech.”
On Dec. 2, 2022, when the Twitter Files were being first reported, journalist Matt Taibbi had stated there was “no evidence… of any government involvement” in the Biden laptop story, writing, “Although several sources recalled hearing about a ‘general’ warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence – that I’ve seen – of any government involvement in the [Hunter Biden] laptop story…”
Now, Shellenberger has revealed Pickles’ email stating that briefings from “government sources… about the source of the hard drive” was “neither whistleblower or dissident content” even though one of the sources who provided the laptop’s hard drive to the New York Post was Rudy Giuliani, who was working for President Donald Trump’s campaign, to report on his opponent in the election, Joe Biden.
Since then, the FBI has come out and emphatically denied the allegations that it was involved in censorship operations, even though its own website for the Foreign Influence Task Force, cited in the Twitter Files, states, “Private sector partnerships: The FBI considers strategic engagement with U.S. technology companies, including threat indicator sharing, to be important in combating foreign influence actors.”
In 2018, Congress unanimously passed legislation in the closing days of the Republican-controlled House on unanimous consent, H.R. 3359, that authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to disseminate information to the private sector including Big Tech social media companies in a bid to combat potential foreign and domestic terrorists.
The law authorizes CISA to “disseminate, as appropriate, information analyzed by the Department within the Department, to other agencies of the Federal Government with responsibilities relating to homeland security, and to agencies of State and local governments and private sector entities with such responsibilities in order to assist in the deterrence, prevention, preemption of, or response to, terrorist attacks against the United States.”
With that authority, CISA says it “rout[es] disinformation concerns” to “appropriate social media platforms”: “The [Mis, Dis, Malinformation] MDM team serves as a switchboard for routing disinformation concerns to appropriate social media platforms and law enforcement,” according to the agency’s website.
This has been going on since 2018: “This activity began in 2018, supporting state and local election officials to mitigate disinformation about the time, place, and manner of voting.”
And it was expanded in 2020: “For the 2020 election, CISA expanded the breadth of reporting to include other state and local officials and more social media platforms.”
The agency still brags about its “rapport” with Big Tech firms in censoring speech so they’re on the same page: “This activity leverages the rapport the MDM team has with the social media platforms to enable shared situational awareness.”
During the pandemic, CISA also targeted Covid “disinformation” too: “COVID-19…create[d] opportunities for adversaries to act maliciously. The MDM team supports…private sector partners’ COVID-19 response…via regular reporting and analysis of key pandemic-related MDM trends.”
As for the FBI Foreign Influence Task Force, according to its website, “The FBI is the lead federal agency responsible for investigating foreign influence operations. In the fall of 2017, Director Christopher Wray established the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) to identify and counteract malign foreign influence operations targeting the United States.”
The site warns of foreign disinformation, “Foreign influence operations have taken many forms and used many tactics over the years. Most widely reported these days are attempts by adversaries—hoping to reach a wide swath of Americans covertly from outside the United States—to use false personas and fabricated stories on social media platforms to discredit U.S. individuals and institutions.” And it “provides tools and resources to political campaigns, companies, and individuals to protect against online foreign influence operations and cybersecurity threats,” including on “Disinformation campaigns on social media platforms that confuse, trick, or upset the public”.
In other words, both CISA and the FITF tell social media what is foreign influence or disinformation so they know what to suppress and censor. It’s that simple.
On this very specific point, as it relates to the Hunter Biden laptop story, briefings from “government sources… about the source of the hard drive” either happened or they did not happen. What we do know is that CISA and the FITF have been bragging about their approach to social media for years and used it in 2020 on anti-Covid policies postings, election postings and so forth. This was all political speech, mostly by Republicans in favor of Donald Trump in the elections, but its being dubbed foreign or terrorist disinformation in order to get it muted.
In an election that was only decided by a mere 43,000 votes in three swing states, Georgia (10,000), Arizona (10,000) and Wisconsin (23,000) — if these had gone Trump’s way, the Electoral College would have been tied 269 to 269, sending the election to the House of Representatives — these efforts could have indeed had an impact on the outcome of the election of not just the presidency, but the House, which Democrats had won by just a five-seat swing.
This is censorship both before and during the Biden administration by free-standing administrative, permanent state officials acting independent of the President in order to impact our political debates that are protected by the First Amendment and in order to foster a one-party system in favor of Democrats, and it is something the incoming House Republican majority must not only investigate but CISA and the FITF need to be dismantled — while we still have a two-party system worth defending.