AMAC Exclusive – By Kathryn Vitale
If Republicans do as expected and retake control of the House of Representatives in November, one of the first items on their list of investigations should be the recent bombshell revelations about an extensive censorship operation the Department of Homeland Security conducted during the 2020 election.
According to investigative journalist John Solomon, DHS’s cybersecurity division, also known as CISA, helped form and then partnered with a consortium of four private organizations – known collectively as the “Election Integrity Partnership” (EIP) – to counter what they called “rumors and disinformation around the 2020 election.” From September 2020 through January 2021, this CISA-backed consortium – which took input from left-wing organizations, including the Democratic National Committee (but not the RNC) – worked around the clock to flag millions of social media posts, online articles, political commentators, and social media influencers that contradicted the left’s narrative on everything from COVID-19 to Hunter Biden’s shady business dealings. Unsurprisingly, the consortium overwhelmingly targeted conservatives for censorship.
This wasn’t just an isolated incident. After their work in 2020, the Biden administration granted members of the consortium millions of taxpayer dollars to continue their censorship activities.
Solomon’s report quickly made waves in conservative media when it was released last month. Sean Hannity, whose own show was one of the consortium’s targets, interviewed John Solomon and noted that Solomon’s report revealed the American government is “endorsing a Pravda-like propaganda system of information.” Hannity added, “This would be illegal by any definition of election law…I want to know what members of Congress were knowledgeable of this. I want to know what protections we’ll have in future elections.” An analysis of the report from the Heritage Foundation, the premier Washington think tank since the Reagan years, concluded that the consortium is “acting as a proxy for the American left, conducting an information war against its perceived enemies on the right.” Forbes magazine reported that the censorship operation “suggests” the “need for a regime of transparency and disclosure to prevent mission creep and political manipulation.”
The Solomon report also immediately caught the attention of prominent Republican members of Congress, all of whom have vowed to increase transparency by further investigating the censorship consortium’s actions. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called the federal government’s actions to censor speech “fundamental violations of the First Amendment” and promised that “holding both Big Tech and the government agencies they colluded with accountable will be a top priority of a Republican majority.”
Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA), a member of the House Oversight Committee and the Homeland Security Committee, said that “this particular type of censorship” was “incredibly concerning” and “something we need to look into and investigate further.” Clyde announced plans to introduce a bill that would ban the federal government from censoring speech by proxy and would allow anyone targeted by their censorship to take legal action. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) asserted that the report shows that the federal government was likely attempting to “skirt the law” to “censor Americans” and “abridge their free speech,” and vowed to “continue to look into” the government’s actions.
Several members of Congress are already preparing for an investigation into CISA’s censorship machine. Rep. James Comer (R-KY), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, has prepared letters asking to preserve evidence for future hearings, since this type of censorship operation is a grave misuse of taxpayer dollars. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) reported that she is working with other members of Congress to assemble evidence preservation letters.
Public outrage following the investigative report was so widespread that EIP issued a lengthy response reaffirming their “non-partisan” status, denying that they had pressured any social media company to remove content, and asserting that they were blameless. However, they then further exposed their partisanship by admitting that they had primarily targeted right-leaning content because they believed conservatives were the main spreaders of “disinformation.”
But Americans shouldn’t have to simply trust that EIP and unelected government bureaucrats didn’t violate their First Amendment freedoms and federal law. Congress, vested with oversight authority by the Constitution, has a responsibility to shine a light on the full extent of their actions and the federal government’s involvement in the operation.
The Supreme Court has held that the government “may not induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.” To preserve the First Amendment rights of all Americans, Congress must therefore investigate and end any government effort to manipulate speech in the public square – whether in person or online, directly or through proxies – especially concerning the conduct of our elections.
Kathryn Vitale is the pen name of a research and communications specialist with previous experience working in the federal government.
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