Hundreds of internal documents expose top U.S. government agencies working closely with social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to censor American freedom of speech — under the guise of fighting disinformation — over several years, as obtained and reported by The Intercept.
The Intercept’s investigative journalist Lee Fang broke the story Monday, confirming what Americans have feared in the current age of censorship that only authoritarian regimes could only dream of enacting in a nation founded on the unabridged right to freedom of speech.
By Monday Night, Fang appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss the bombshell report.
“We looked at really hundreds of documents that paint a vivid picture of the [Federal Bureau of Investigation], the [Department of Homeland Security] closely collaborating with the top social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook, to censor various forms of content under the banner of fighting disinformation,” Fang told Carlson.
Fang said the story shows a “very cozy” relationship between the government alphabet agencies like the FBI and DHS and tech giants, where they held monthly meetings — as recently as August — and exchanged emails and texts to shape online discourse.
One of those cozy relationships highlighted in the report shows a text from earlier this year between former DHS official and current Microsoft executive Matt Masterson, and Jen Easterly, a DHS director saying “the government needs to get the private sector, needs to get more comfortable with the government,” according to Fang.
“Platforms have got to get comfortable with gov’t,” Masterson allegedly said to Easterly via text. “It’s really interesting how hesitant they remain.”
Fang alluded to big government and big tech closely collaborating on reports talking about the expanded role of DHS in centering a vast collection of topic areas of policy and political topics.
According to the report, Fang emphasizes key takeaways showing that DHS plans to target inaccurate information on topics such as “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.”
The report also said that before the 2020 election, tech companies, including Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, Wikipedia, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Verizon Media, met monthly with the FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and other government representatives.
Fang said on his social media that Facebook and Twitter created special portals for the government to rapidly request takedowns of content.
A spokesperson from Twitter denied the allegations in a statement to The Intercept, saying the platform “[does] not coordinate with other entities when making content moderation decisions, adding officials “independently evaluate content in line with the Twitter Rules.”
Fang told Carlson that what started as a mission to combat foreign threats in the aftermath of 9/11 has moved towards fighting disinformation using the justification that it radicalizes the homeland and could lead to public health disruptions or political violence.
The Intercept report also includes an anonymous interview with an FBI official who said the department reassigned him from his usual job of countering foreign intelligence services to monitoring American social media accounts during the George Floyd riots in the summer of 2020.
“So they have a justification we have these documents, and they’re pushing forward with this broad censorship agenda,” Fang said.
Leaked Documents Show Facebook And Twitter Worked Closely With The FBI And DHS To Police "Disinformation" @lhfang Joins Tucker Carlson Tonight To Discuss This Bombshell Report
Link To The Intercept Piece: https://t.co/PHMEGJVngE pic.twitter.com/mhUkmTDaDe
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) November 1, 2022
Earlier this year, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the GOP senatorial candidate, filed a landmark lawsuit in May to expose how top Biden Administration officials allegedly colluded with social media companies to censor freedom of speech.
Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, who has written about the lawsuit, said, according to The Intercept, “there is growing evidence that the legislative and executive branch officials are using social media companies to engage in censorship by surrogate.”
“It is axiomatic that the government cannot do indirectly what it is prohibited from doing directly. If government officials are directing or facilitating such censorship, it raises serious First Amendment questions,” Turley said.
The Biden administration announced earlier this year that its Department of Homeland Security would create a Disinformation Governance Board, which many conservative politicians said would crack down on freedom of speech in an unconstitutional and Orwellian move.
After facing massive opposition, federal authorities shut down the Disinformation Governance Board in August — more than three months after announcing a pause on the Board’s work.
However, according to The Intercept, the federal government has yet to cease its efforts to censor the American people.