Elon Musk slams CISA censorship network as 'propaganda platform'
This DHS-backed censorship network used 120 analysts to censor millions of social media posts on elections and covid-19.
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, recently made a bold move by releasing the Twitter Files, which detail how the social media platform coordinated with federal law enforcement to silence voices that didn’t align with the company’s far-left agenda.
What’s been missing from much of this analysis is the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) role in this censorship through a consortium called the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), made up of four organizations: the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, and Graphika, a social media analytics company.
The EIP published a report on its censorship of the 2020 election, The Long Fuse: Misinformation and the 2020 Election, which describes how the private-public censorship consortium was formed in the summer of 2020 to “monitor and correct election mis- and disinformation.”
This censorship network partnered with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), and the DHS-backed Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) during the 2020 election cycle and operated as technocratic thought police forwarding tickets of "mis- and disinformation" to social media companies.
The EIP built communication portals with Big Tech platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, TikTok, Reddit, and Discord; and liberal groups NAACP, Common Cause, the Democratic National Committee, and Harvard's Defending Digital Democracy Project, cofounded by former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, throughout the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, to censor domestic “mis- and disinformation.”
They had about 120 analysts monitoring social media for 20 hours a day, forwarding tickets of misinformation to be censored, and this censorship pivoted to covid vaccines when they started the Virality Project in Feb. 2021.
Join the 50,000 subscribers who read my newsletter!
A report from the Foundation for Freedom Online (FFO), a non-profit founded by Mike Benz, entitled DHS Censorship Agency Had Strange First Mission: Banning Speech That Casts Doubt On ‘Red Mirage, Blue Shift’ Election Events details this government speech control machine and its ability to control the narrative during the 2020 election:
Based on our investigation, below are seven bottom-line figures summarizing the scope of censorship carried out by DHS speech control partners, as compiled from their own reports and videos:
22 Million tweets labeled “misinformation” on Twitter;
859 Million tweets collected in databases for “misinformation” analysis;
15 tech platforms monitored for “misinformation” often in real-time;
<1 hour average response time between government partners and tech platforms;
Dozens of “misinformation narratives” targeted for platform-wide throttling; and
Hundreds of millions of individual Facebook posts, YouTube videos, TikToks, and tweets impacted, due to “misinformation” Terms of Service policy changes that DHS partners openly plotted and bragged tech companies would never have done without DHS partner insistence and “huge regulatory pressure” from government.
In short, CISA outsourced censorship to a web of like-minded private sector and civil society partners to circumvent unclear legal authorities and violations of the First Amendment.
Formed in 2018, CISA’s stated mission was to protect America from cybersecurity threats from hostile foreign countries, but that mission was quickly and quietly corrupted when the branch of DHS designated foreign and then domestic disinformation as attacks on critical infrastructure.
“One could argue we’re in the business of critical infrastructure, and the most critical infrastructure is our cognitive infrastructure, so building that resilience to misinformation and disinformation, I think, is incredibly important,” Jen Easterly, Biden’s CISA said.
In other words, any US citizen spreading what the government deemed “misinformation or disinformation” was now carrying out a cyber attack on critical US infrastructure.
This leftist establishment-aligned censorship consortium flagged then-President Donald Trump, the highest elected official in the US government, as one of its top “mis- and disinformation” spreaders.
The EIP also targeted news outlets, including Breitbart News, Fox News, Just The News, the New York Post, and the Epoch Times, as well as the social media accounts of prominent conservatives James Woods, Charlie Kirk, Tom Fitton, Jack Posobiec, James O’Keefe, and the President’s sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, amongst others.
Every single "repeat spreader of election misinformation" cited in the EIP’s report was aligned with the political right:
“The channels found to be repeat spreaders of false and misleading narratives through YouTube look similar to the repeat spreaders on Twitter—right-wing influencers, hyperpartisan media outlets such as One America News Network (OANN) and The Gateway Pundit, political groups supportive of President Trump such as Project Veritas, and President Trump himself,” the EIP authors explained.
This speech control network also flagged popular populist-right YouTube channels, including Steven Crowder, BlazeTV, Judicial Watch, CDMedia, and even the GOP War Room, as “mis- and disinformation” spreaders.
“The entire countering Russian disinformation on social media apparatus that had been constructed before July 2019 to censor, throttle and identify foreign disinformation was quietly, but entirely, pivoted to focus inward on domestic disinformation,” said Mike Benz, the founder of Foundation for Freedom Online (FFO).
“DHS insiders' collective justification, without uttering a peep about the switch's revolutionary implications, was that “domestic disinformation” was now a greater “cyber threat to elections” than falsehoods flowing from foreign interference,” Benz continued.
“So CISA's self-invented censorship powers against “foreign disinformation” went from being pointed outward against supposed Russian bot accounts to being pointed inwards at tens of millions of US citizens simply talking lawfully about their elections,” he said.
“The main character in the CISA side of this story is its then-director, Chris Krebs,” Benz explained.
Benz’s foundation illustrates this swap through a supercut of DHS censorship network partners switching from a “foreign” to a “domestic” predicate for censorship between the 2016 election and the 2020 election:
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: Chris Krebs
To better understand the intent of this government censorship operation, the Foundation for Freedom Online (FFO) report lists examples of Chris Krebs’ political bias coupled with his affinity for domestic speech control:
Krebs said in April 2022 that the Hunter Biden laptop still looked like Russian disinformation and that Krebs didn't care whether it was or wasn't Russian disinformation; the important positive thing, he stressed, was that news media did not cover the laptop during the 2020 election cycle.
Krebs, who administered the federal side of the 2020 election after DHS effectively nationalized election infrastructure on January 6, 2017, said that every lawyer who represented conservative clients on claims concerning 2020 election irregularities should be permanently disbarred and banned from legal practice for life.
Krebs said he hopes conservative media outlets are bankrupted and forced to pay billions in damages in the ongoing lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems. He stressed the same fate should apply to anyone in the news media who questioned US voting machines during the 2020 election, which he helped administer.
Krebs said he personally canceled his DirecTV subscription in protest of conservative-leaning OANN having been allowed to have a platform on cable.
Krebs said that the sitting President in 2020, Donald Trump, was a national security threat because he espoused domestic “disinformation.”
Krebs said he feels equally passionate about the need to censor critics of government Covid-19 protocols as he does about censoring critics of government election administration issues.
Krebs has repeatedly said on record that “misinformation” is the single biggest threat to election security. Note that Kreb's role in government was not supposed to be as arbiter of truth; he was supposed to be a cybersecurity expert from Microsoft. Yet US domestic citizen opinions on social media became, in Kreb's estimate, the top “cyber” security threat facing the US, replacing foreign hacking and malware.
“In total, the National Science Foundation (NSF) spent $38.8 million on government grants and contracts to combat “misinformation” since the start of the Biden administration,” according to the Foundation for Freedom Online.
“64 NSF grants totaling $31.8 million were given to 42 colleges and universities to research the science of stopping viral ideas,” Mike Benz said. “Some grants explicitly target “populist politicians” and “populist communications” to scientifically determine how best to counter populist narratives.”
“EIP uses a system where each misinformation incident is classified as part of a specific larger misinformation narrative,” Benz continued. “EIP then turns around and pressures social media representatives to censor entire narratives at scale by using the network maps and narrative analysis that the EIP compiles and shares with social media companies.”
Krebs and the EIP’s decision to completely censor the narrative around voting machine vulnerabilities fails to acknowledge that congressional members aligned with the left, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Ron Wyden, and Sen. Kamala Harris, among numerous computer science professors and election security experts, spent the last 4-years warning the American people that computerized voting systems are often connected to the internet, compromised, and vulnerable to hackers.
In effect, the left was allowed to discuss the vulnerabilties of voting machines after the 2016 election and the right was censored for discussing those very same vulnerabilities after the 2020 election.
The EIP created four categories of “mis- and disinformation” to target; fraud, procedural interference, participation interference, and delegitimization.
“This is because the EIP-rigged definition of “delegitimization” – defined to mean any speech that “casts doubt” on any kind of election process, outcome, or integrity issues — made all conservative and populist criticism of the administration of the election pre-banned at the narrative level, five months in advance of Election Day,” Benz explained.
In a twist of fate, those most responsible for delegitimizing the 2016 election would go on to silence their political opponents from questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
“The gall to mass censor “delegitimization,” coming from this crowd, is truly something to behold. The entire EIP network consisted of professional delegitimizers of the 2016 election who dedicated their entire careers to promoting the (unsubstantiated) theory that Russia had stolen the 2016 election,” Benz continued.
“Alex Stamos, Renee DiResta, Kate Starbird, the entire Graphika team, and the DFR lab were all personally the foremost tips of the spears that created a narrative that the sitting United States President from 2016-2020 was functionally “illegitimate” because of unfounded rumors about Russiagate that turned out later not to be true,” he said.
In yet another display of the EIP’s political bias, this government-backed censorship network sided with the left six months before the 2020 election and mass-censored any delegitimization of vote-by-mail as misinformation and disinformation.
The EIP aligned with one party’s candidate when the censorship network targeted speech casting doubt on mail-in ballots as “mis- and disinformation” despite evidence that mail-in ballots are not as secure as in-person voting.
The 2005 bipartisan Federal Election Reform Commission report chaired by former President Jimmy Carter concluded, "Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
Indeed, previous examples of mail-in ballot fraud caused the New York Times to write in 2012, "all the evidence of stolen elections involves absentee ballots," and Slate to write in 2016, "the only voting fraud schemes with the potential to actually swing elections involved mail-in ballots."
In Europe, 74 percent of nations ban mail-in ballots for citizens living inside their country. Brazil, Russia, Israel, Mexico, and a host of additional developed nations have also banned mail-in voting due to security concerns.
Regardless of your opinion on voting machines or mail-in voting, it’s clear that this public-private censorship network conspired with big tech and big government to censor one side of the discussion.
In a further shocking example of mission creep, the security state’s censorship by proxy operation expanded from its original focus on elections to include covid-19 vaccine mis- and disinformation.
In Feb. 2021, the Virality Project was launched, a collaboration between the four EIP partners that added the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC)’s Algorithmic Transparency Institute, New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics, and Tandon School of Engineering.
Their collaboration culminated in a Feb. 2022 report, Memes, Magnets and Microchips: Narrative dynamics around COVID-19 vaccines, detailing how the censorship network tracked, documented, and censored alleged vaccine mis- and disinformation.
The Virality Project partnered with federal government agencies, most notably the Office of the Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services, and the CDC, public health partners such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Facebook (including Instagram), Twitter, Google (including YouTube), TikTok, Medium, and Pinterest.
Their analysts monitored “keyword-based queries and cluster-based community lists of key public figures and influencers” on all of the Big Tech platforms and alternative platforms, such as Gab, Parler, Telegram, Rumble, and Gettr.
They censored reports of post-vaccination deaths and injuries, arguments against vaccine mandates or passports, anything that questioned the safety, efficacy, or necessity of vaccines, and even what they considered conspiracy theories such as pharmaceutical industry profit was the motivation behind the vaccine campaign.
The report lists so-called anti-vaccine influencers, pseudomedical influencers, medical freedom influencers, right-leaning political influencers, and conspiracy theory influencers, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Del Bigtree, Dr. Robert Malone, Dr. Peter McCullough, Dr. Judy Mikovits, US. Joseph Mercola, Alex Berenson, Erin Elizabeth, Naomi Wolf, Michael Yeadon, Tucker Carlson, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, Dr. Simone Gold, Dr. Dolores Cahill, Dr. Stella Immanuel, Candace Owens, Sen. Ron Johnson, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, among others.
The Virality Project authors censored entire narratives based on debatably false premises:
“The idea that natural immunity from infection is superior to immunity from vaccination became a political talking point raised repeatedly by right-leaning political influencers, despite inconclusive scientific evidence.”
Maddie de Garay, a 12-year-old girl in the Pfizer children’s vaccine trial, went from being healthy to paralyzed in a wheelchair and eating from a feeding tube 12 hours after her second dose was not injured by the Pfizer vaccine.
The covid-19 response, which denied early treatment to patients, and the subsequent vaccine rollout were not “state-imposed oppression designed to enrich pharmaceutical companies and erode American freedoms.”
There are no warning signs about these mRNA vaccines in VAERS, and from other injury databases outside the United States, such as the UK’s Yellow Card reporting site, EudraVigilance (used in the European Economic Area), and the World Health Organization’s VigiAccess.
So who are these unelected bureaucrats who get to play 'judge, jury, and executioner' and control the thoughts of millions of Americans?
Stanford Internet Observatory: Alex Stamos
After being fired by President Trump, Krebs started a private consulting firm with former Facebook executive Alex Stamos.
Stamos is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Aspen Institute’s Cyber Security Task Force, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), and the founder of the EIP censorship network Krebs established while at CISA.
“Before receiving a $3 million government grant from the Biden Administration in 2021 after censoring the Biden Administration's political opposition in 2020, SIO was originally funded by private foundations such as Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Omidyar Network, and the Charles Koch Foundation,” Mike Benz explained.
Stamos momentarily dropped the veil of nonpartisanship when he compared “over half of the Republicans in Congress” to the terrorist network ISIS.
The unelected CISA censorship czar called on Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast to block OANN and Newsmax from their airwaves and discussed other potential ways to limit the reach of “conservative influencers.”
“We have to turn down the capability of these conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences,” Stamos told CNN’s, Brian Stelter.
“There are people on YouTube, for example, that have a larger audience than daytime CNN, and they are extremely radical and pushing extremely radical views,” he said.
University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public: Kate Starbird
Kate Starbird is the head of CISA’s “disinformation” advisor subcommittee and the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public director.
US government grants have funded her work on domestic censorship since 2013.
“Russian propaganda (with an assist from Bannon and alt-right media) has become the President of the United States’ ideology,” Kate Starbird wrote in a 2018 Twitter post. “And he’s spreading it to his masses.”
In October 2018, Starbird told her Facebook followers to vote Democrat to “begin to hold this President and his friends/family accountable for things like corruption and collusion; that it will help stop his racist, anti-LGBT agenda from adding to the damage already done.”
Starbird claimed that the then-president’s “nationalism” didn’t stand for “patriotism” but instead stood for “white supremacy and ethno-nationalism.”
“If we cannot stop it [fascism and white nationalism] here, it won’t be stopped,” she explained.
“We are facing a wholly different kind of threat.”
“Starbird sits on CISA's disinformation advisory panel directly with Vijaya Gadde, the recently fired top lawyer at Twitter who famously promoted censorship of the hashtag “#LearnToCode” on Joe Rogan's podcast in March 2019, led the internal Twitter decision to ban President Trump's Twitter account in January 2021, and vociferously opposed Elon Musk's proposal to roll back Twitter censorship policies,” Mike Benz said.
“The Biden Administration provided Kate Starbird's UW disinformation lab with a $3 million government grant (jointly with Stanford) just months after Starbird's lab helped censor the Biden Administration's political adversary during the 2020 election,” he continued.
“In late 2016, our research began to see connections between conspiracy theorizing, state-sponsored disinformation (specifically from Russia), and content criticizing globalism and advocating for nationalism,” Starbird claimed in another Facebook post.
“To see this ideology move from fringe to mainstream, with the help of alt-right media and active disinformation campaigns (both foreign and domestic), is truly frightening,” Starbird concluded.
Starbird, a liberal university professor, insulated from working-class Americans, wrote off criticism of “globalism” as “state-sponsored disinformation (specifically from Russia).”
In reality, many American citizens who advocate against global governance are upset with the discredited neoconservative and neoliberal political establishment that lied the populace into decades of endless wars, disastrous international trade agreements like NAFTA and WTO, which closed down 70,000 factories and destroyed the US manufacturing base, and a ruling class that is willing to send $100 billion to defend Ukraine’s border while refusing to spend $5 billion to secure the US border.
Starbird, as a member of the managerial class, is tasked with intellectualizing elaborate ways to justify censoring populist criticism of the corrupt political establishment, failed institutions, and disastrous policy decisions that have stagnated working-class incomes since the 1970s, created the greatest wealth inequality since the 1930s, and led to record inflation, supply chain shortages, and homelessness.
Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab: Graham Brookie
Graham Brookie is the figure who led the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and a previous Obama White House National Security Council member.
The Atlantic Council is a NATO think-tank that boasts “seven living CIA directors - Michael Hayden, James Woolsey, Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, Michael Morrell, William Webster & Robert Gates - on the board of the group deputized by DHS to censor your opinions about mail-in ballots during the 2020 election cycle,” Mike Benz explained.
Brookie, a government-funded disinformation expert, dedicated much of his time during President Trump’s years in the White House to promoting the false narrative that the President of the United States was a Russian agent controlled by Vladimir Putin.
“There's no doubt that Donald Trump is the largest spreader of specific and important types of misinformation today, especially about coronavirus, or COVID-19,” Brookie said during a PBS interview weeks before the 2020 election.
In October 2020, Brookie would call the Hunter Biden laptop story “laundered unverified misinfo.”
At the same time, Leon Panetta and Michael Hayden, two of his Atlantic Council partners, signed an infamous disinformation letter with 49 other former US intelligence officials that spread the lie that the Biden laptop was “Russian disinformation.”
When the then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe stated that the Biden laptop story was legitimate and not “Russian disinfo,” Brookie questioned Ratcliffe’s “credibility” and accused him of “politicizing intel.”
Incredibly, the Atlantic Council’s disinformation lab, tasked by the US government to censor the 2020 election, publicly tweeted its director’s disdain for the President days before the 2020 election.
Graphika: Ben Nimmo
Ben Nimmo leads the censorship role at Graphika and is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s DFR Lab.
“Donald Trump is right that someone is trying to rig the US election, but it is not Hillary Clinton: it is the Kremlin, and Trump is an accomplice, whether or not he realizes it,” Nimmo, a former NATO press officer, wrote in November 2016.
“Trump has parroted at least one allegation which began in the Kremlin media. He has benefited from Kremlin-linked hackers, and there are hints that his online support is being influenced by Russian-linked social media accounts,” he continued.
“In 2021, the year after Graphika helped censor the 2020 election for the Biden Administration, Graphika was rewarded with nearly $5 million in government grants from the Pentagon – all to facilitate more censorship work,” Mike Benz explained.
In June 2019, at an Atlantic Council DFR Lab conference, Nimmo trained a roomful of international journalists on how to spot “disinformation” in tweets by then-President Donald Trump and in ads promoting Brexit.
Senior journalists were encouraged to hold up placards reading “Bullsh*t” as Trump tweets and Brexit slogans played across the screen:
The Foundation for Freedom Online report details how this government censorship network was hyper-targeted against one specific side. Still, it gets much more severe once you understand the scale of censorship and how entire narratives were systemically silenced:
“EIP, in its own report, say they classified 22 million tweets (21,897,364 individual posts, to be precise) as each comprising unique “misinformation incidents” during the four-month period between August 15, 2020 and December 12, 2020.”
To get this 22 million “misinformation” number, EIP created a bucket of 859 million tweets discussing “misinformation narratives”, and then applied a crude set of subjective inferences to conclude that 22 million tweets out of that 859 million total could be confidently classified as endorsing a banned “misinformation narrative.”
EIP uses a system where each “misinformation incident” is classified as part of a specific larger “misinformation narrative”. EIP then turns around and pressures social media representatives to censor entire narratives at scale by using the network maps and narrative analysis that EIP compiles shares with social media companies.
Below are just a few of the dozens of narratives EIP targeted for throttling wholesale:
The Foundation for Freedom Online report is the most comprehensive write-up of the US government’s role in outsourcing censorship to this public-private network named, in Orwellian fashion, the Election Integrity Partnership.
Founder Mike Benz, who previously worked for the State Department, has extensively documented the individuals involved, the flow of taxpayer funds, and how the government transformed foreign disinformation into domestic censorship.
This authoritarian censorship network that operates in a constellation of NATO, DHS, and State Department-funded NGOs and civil society groups can not be allowed to censor inconvenient truths, facts, and narratives under the guise of protecting the public from so-called misinformation.
Many of these censorship proponents were the most prolific spreaders of the false narrative that President Donald Trump was a secret agent of the Kremlin.
After spending years delegitimizing the 2016 election, this censorship consortium received millions from the US government to silence the American people who questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 and 2022 elections.
In an age where social media platforms have become the number one source of news, freedom of speech online, must be protected at all costs.
Even Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, realizes that the Department of Homeland Security is barrelling down a slippery slope when it circumvents the First Amendment and outsources censorship to a government-funded private network of totalitarian thought police.
Earlier this month, the head of the EIP, Alex Stamos, asked Elon Musk for “transparency” regarding the Tesla CEO tweeting, “the rules were enforced against the right, but not against the left.”
Musk responded to the CISA censorship czar, “You operate a propaganda platform.”
Subscribers who sign up for $5 a month enable me to work full-time as an independent journalist. For the price of a cup of coffee, you become my largest benefactor, and my work continues to be accountable only to truth, freedom, and the American people.