• truth cops

    From Ben Collver@bencollver@tilde.pink to comp.misc on Tue Nov 1 16:25:59 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    Truth Cops

    Leaked Documents Outline DHS's Plans to Police Disinformation

    Ken Klippenstein, Lee Fang
    October 31 2022, 2:00 a.m.

    The Department of Homeland Security is quietly broadening its efforts
    to curb speech it considers dangerous, an investigation by The
    Intercept has found. Years of internal DHS memos, emails, and documents--obtained via leaks and an ongoing lawsuit, as well as
    public documents--illustrate an expansive effort by the agency to
    influence tech platforms.

    The work, much of which remains unknown to the American public, came
    into clearer view earlier this year when DHS announced a new
    "Disinformation Governance Board": a panel designed to police
    misinformation (false information spread unintentionally),
    disinformation (false information spread intentionally), and
    malinformation (factual information shared, typically out of context,
    with harmful intent) that allegedly threatens U.S. interests. While
    the board was widely ridiculed, immediately scaled back, and then
    shut down within a few months, other initiatives are underway as DHS
    pivots to monitoring social media now that its original mandate--the
    war on terror--has been wound down.

    Behind closed doors, and through pressure on private platforms, the
    U.S. government has used its power to try to shape online discourse.
    According to meeting minutes and other records appended to a lawsuit
    filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican who is
    also running for Senate, discussions have ranged from the scale and
    scope of government intervention in online discourse to the mechanics
    of streamlining takedown requests for false or intentionally
    misleading information.

    Key Takeaways

    * Though DHS shuttered its controversial Disinformation Governance
    Board, a strategic document reveals the underlying work is ongoing.
    * DHS plans to target inaccurate information on "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."
    * Facebook created a special portal for DHS and government partners
    to report disinformation directly.

    "Platforms have got to get comfortable with gov't. It's really
    interesting how hesitant they remain," Microsoft executive Matt
    Masterson, a former DHS official, texted Jen Easterly, a DHS
    director, in February.

    In a March meeting, Laura Dehmlow, an FBI official, warned that the
    threat of subversive information on social media could undermine
    support for the U.S. government. Dehmlow, according to notes of the
    discussion attended by senior executives from Twitter and JPMorgan
    Chase, stressed that "we need a media infrastructure that is held
    accountable."

    "We do not coordinate with other entities when making content
    moderation decisions, and we independently evaluate content in line
    with the Twitter Rules," a spokesperson for Twitter wrote in a
    statement to The Intercept.

    There is also a formalized process for government officials to
    directly flag content on Facebook or Instagram and request that it be
    throttled or suppressed through a special Facebook portal that
    requires a government or law enforcement email to use. At the time
    of writing, the "content request system" at
    facebook.com/xtakedowns/login is still live. DHS and Meta, the
    parent company of Facebook, did not respond to a request for comment.
    The FBI declined to comment.

    DHS's mission to fight disinformation, stemming from concerns around
    Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, began taking
    shape during the 2020 election and over efforts to shape discussions
    around vaccine policy during the coronavirus pandemic. Documents
    collected by The Intercept from a variety of sources, including
    current officials and publicly available reports, reveal the
    evolution of more active measures by DHS.

    According to a draft copy of DHS's Quadrennial Homeland Security
    Review, DHS's capstone report outlining the department's strategy and priorities in the coming years, the department plans to target
    "inaccurate information" on a wide range of topics, including "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 challenge is particularly acute in marginalized communities,"
    the report states, "which are often the targets of false or
    misleading information, such as false information on voting
    procedures targeting people of color."

    The inclusion of the 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is
    particularly noteworthy, given that House Republicans, should they
    take the majority in the midterms, have vowed to investigate. "This
    makes Benghazi look like a much smaller issue," said Rep. Mike
    Johnson, R-La., a member of the Armed Services Committee, adding that
    finding answers "will be a top priority."

    How disinformation is defined by the government has not been clearly articulated, and the inherently subjective nature of what constitutes disinformation provides a broad opening for DHS officials to make
    politically motivated determinations about what constitutes dangerous
    speech.

    The inherently subjective nature of what constitutes
    disinformation provides a broad opening for DHS officials to make
    politically motivated determinations about what constitutes dangerous
    speech.

    DHS justifies these goals--which have expanded far beyond its
    original purview on foreign threats to encompass disinformation
    originating domestically--by claiming that terrorist threats can be "exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation spread online." But
    the laudable goal of protecting Americans from danger has often been
    used to conceal political maneuvering. In 2004, for instance, DHS
    officials faced pressure from the George W. Bush administration to
    heighten the national threat level for terrorism, in a bid to
    influence voters prior to the election, according to former DHS
    Secretary Tom Ridge. U.S. officials have routinely lied about an
    array of issues, from the causes of its wars in Vietnam and Iraq to
    their more recent obfuscation around the role of the National
    Institutes of Health in funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology's
    coronavirus research.

    That track record has not prevented the U.S. government from seeking
    to become arbiters of what constitutes false or dangerous information
    on inherently political topics. Earlier this year, Republican Gov.
    Ron DeSantis signed a law known by supporters as the "Stop WOKE Act,"
    which bans private employers from workplace trainings asserting an
    individual's moral character is privileged or oppressed based on his
    or her race, color, sex, or national origin. The law, critics
    charged, amounted to a broad suppression of speech deemed offensive.
    The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, has
    since filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, alleging "unconstitutional
    censorship." A federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the Stop
    WOKE Act, ruling that the law had violated workers' First Amendment
    rights.

    "Florida's legislators may well find plaintiffs' speech 'repugnant.'
    But under our constitutional scheme, the 'remedy' for repugnant
    speech is more speech, not enforced silence," wrote Judge Mark
    Walker, in a colorful opinion castigating the law.

    The extent to which the DHS initiatives affect Americans' daily
    social feeds is unclear. During the 2020 election, the government
    flagged numerous posts as suspicious, many of which were then taken
    down, documents cited in the Missouri attorney general's lawsuit
    disclosed. And a 2021 report by the Election Integrity Partnership
    at Stanford University found that of nearly 4,800 flagged items,
    technology platforms took action on 35 percent--either removing,
    labeling, or soft-blocking speech, meaning the users were only able
    to view content after bypassing a warning screen. The research was
    done "in consultation with CISA," the Cybersecurity and
    Infrastructure Security Agency.

    Prior to the 2020 election, tech companies including Twitter,
    Facebook, Reddit, Discord, Wikipedia, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and
    Verizon Media met on a monthly basis with the FBI, CISA, and other
    government representatives. According to NBC News, the meetings were
    part of an initiative, still ongoing, between the private sector and
    government to discuss how firms would handle misinformation during
    the election.

    The stepped up counter-disinformation effort began in 2018 following high-profile hacking incidents of U.S. firms, when Congress passed
    and President Donald Trump signed the Cybersecurity and
    Infrastructure Security Agency Act, forming a new wing of DHS devoted
    to protecting critical national infrastructure. An August 2022
    report by the DHS Office of Inspector General sketches the rapidly
    accelerating move toward policing disinformation.

    From the outset, CISA boasted of an "evolved mission" to monitor
    social media discussions while "routing disinformation concerns" to
    private sector platforms.

    In 2018, then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen created the Countering
    Foreign Influence Task Force to respond to election disinformation.
    The task force, which included members of CISA as well as its Office
    of Intelligence and Analysis, generated "threat intelligence" about
    the election and notified social media platforms and law enforcement.
    At the same time, DHS began notifying social media companies about voting-related disinformation appearing on social platforms.

    Key Takeaways, Cont'd.

    * The work is primarily done by CISA, a DHS sub-agency tasked with
    protecting critical national infrastructure.
    * DHS, the FBI, and several media entities are having biweekly
    meetings as recently as August.
    * DHS considered countering disinformation relating to content that
    undermines trust in financial systems and courts.
    * The FBI agent who primed social media platforms to take down the
    Hunter Biden laptop story continued to have a role in DHS policy
    discussions.

    In 2019, DHS created a separate entity called the Foreign Influence
    and Interference Branch to generate more detailed intelligence about disinformation, the inspector general report shows. That year, its
    staff grew to include 15 full- and part-time staff dedicated to
    disinformation analysis. In 2020, the disinformation focus expanded
    to include Covid-19, according to a Homeland Threat Assessment issued
    by Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.

    This apparatus had a dry run during the 2020 election, when CISA
    began working with other members of the U.S. intelligence community.
    Office of Intelligence and Analysis personnel attended "weekly
    teleconferences to coordinate Intelligence Community activities to
    counter election-related disinformation." According to the IG
    report, meetings have continued to take place every two weeks since
    the elections.

    Emails between DHS officials, Twitter, and the Center for Internet
    Security outline the process for such takedown requests during the
    period leading up to November 2020. Meeting notes show that the tech
    platforms would be called upon to "process reports and provide timely responses, to include the removal of reported misinformation from the
    platform where possible." In practice, this often meant state
    election officials sent examples of potential forms of disinformation
    to CISA, which would then forward them on to social media companies
    for a response.

    Under President Joe Biden, the shifting focus on disinformation has
    continued. In January 2021, CISA replaced the Countering Foreign
    Influence Task force with the "Misinformation, Disinformation and Malinformation" team, which was created "to promote more flexibility
    to focus on general MDM." By now, the scope of the effort had
    expanded beyond disinformation produced by foreign governments to
    include domestic versions. The MDM team, according to one CISA
    official quoted in the IG report, "counters all types of
    disinformation, to be responsive to current events."

    Jen Easterly, Biden's appointed director of CISA, swiftly made it
    clear that she would continue to shift resources in the agency to
    combat the spread of dangerous forms of information on social media.
    "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," said Easterly, speaking at a
    conference in November 2021.

    CISA's domain has gradually expanded to encompass more subjects it
    believes amount to critical infrastructure. Last year, The Intercept
    reported on the existence of a series of DHS field intelligence
    reports warning of attacks on cell towers, which it has tied to
    conspiracy theorists who believe 5G towers spread Covid-19. One
    intelligence report pointed out that these conspiracy theories "are
    inciting attacks against the communications infrastructure."

    CISA has defended its burgeoning social media monitoring authorities,
    stating that "once CISA notified a social media platform of
    disinformation, the social media platform could independently decide
    whether to remove or modify the post." But, as documents revealed by
    the Missouri lawsuit show, CISA's goal is to make platforms more
    responsive to their suggestions.

    In late February, Easterly texted with Matthew Masterson, a
    representative at Microsoft who formerly worked at CISA, that she is
    "trying to get us in a place where Fed can work with platforms to
    better understand mis/dis trends so relevant agencies can try to
    prebunk/debunk as useful."

    Meeting records of the CISA Cybersecurity Advisory Committee, the
    main subcommittee that handles disinformation policy at CISA, show a
    constant effort to expand the scope of the agency's tools to foil disinformation.

    In June, the same DHS advisory committee of CISA--which includes
    Twitter head of legal policy, trust, and safety Vijaya Gadde and
    University of Washington professor Kate Starbird--drafted a report to
    the CISA director calling for an expansive role for the agency in
    shaping the "information ecosystem." The report called on the agency
    to closely monitor "social media platforms of all sizes, mainstream
    media, cable news, hyper partisan media, talk radio and other online resources." They argued that the agency needed to take steps to halt
    the "spread of false and misleading information," with a focus on
    information that undermines "key democratic institutions, such as the
    courts, or by other sectors such as the financial system, or public
    health measures."

    To accomplish these broad goals, the report said, CISA should invest
    in external research to evaluate the "efficacy of interventions,"
    specifically with research looking at how alleged disinformation can
    be countered and how quickly messages spread. Geoff Hale, the
    director of the Election Security Initiative at CISA, recommended the
    use of third-party information-sharing nonprofits as a "clearing
    house for information to avoid the appearance of government
    propaganda."

    Last Thursday, immediately following billionaire Elon Musk's
    completed acquisition of Twitter, Gadde was terminated from the
    company.

    The Biden administration, however, did take a stab at making part of
    this infrastructure public in April 2022, with the announcement of
    the Disinformation Governance Board. The exact functions of the
    board, and how it would accomplish its goal of defining and combating
    MDM, were never made clear.

    The board faced immediate backlash across the political spectrum.
    "Who among us thinks the government should add to its work list the
    job of determining what is true and what is disinformation? And who
    thinks the government is capable of telling the truth?" wrote
    Politico media critic Jack Shafer. "Our government produces lies and disinformation at industrial scale and always has. It overclassifies
    vital information to block its own citizens from becoming any the
    wiser. It pays thousands of press aides to play hide the salami with
    facts."

    DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas alluded to broad scope of the
    agency's disinformation effort when he told the Senate Homeland
    Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the role of the
    board--which by that point had been downgraded to a "working
    group"--is to "actually develop guidelines, standards, guardrails to
    ensure that the work that has been ongoing for nearly 10 years does
    not infringe on people's free speech rights, rights of privacy, civil
    rights, and civil liberties."

    "It was quite disconcerting, frankly," he added, "that the
    disinformation work that was well underway for many years across
    different independent administrations was not guided by guardrails."

    DHS eventually scrapped the Disinformation Governance Board in
    August. While free speech advocates cheered the dissolution of the
    board, other government efforts to root out disinformation have not
    only continued but expanded to encompass additional DHS sub-agencies
    like Customs and Border Protection, which "determines whether
    information about the component spread through social media platforms
    like Facebook and Twitter is accurate." Other agencies such as
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Science and Technology
    Directorate (whose responsibilities include "determining whether
    social media accounts were bots or humans and how the mayhem caused
    by bots affects behavior"), and the Secret Service have also expanded
    their purview to include disinformation, according to the inspector
    general report.

    The draft copy of DHS's 2022 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review
    reviewed by The Intercept also confirms that DHS views the issue of
    tackling disinformation and misinformation as a growing portion of
    its core duties. While "counterterrorism remains the first and most
    important mission of the Department," it notes, the agency's "work on
    these missions is evolving and dynamic" and must now adapt to terror
    threats "exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation spread
    online" including by "domestic violent extremists."

    To accomplish this, the draft quadrennial review calls for DHS to
    "leverage advanced data analytics technology and hire and train
    skilled specialists to better understand how threat actors use online
    platforms to introduce and spread toxic narratives intended to
    inspire or incite violence, as well as work with NGOs and other parts
    of civil society to build resilience to the impacts of false
    information."

    The broad definition of "threat actors" posing risks to vaguely
    defined critical infrastructure--an area as broad as trust in
    government, public health, elections, and financial markets--has
    concerned civil libertarians. "No matter your political allegiances,
    all of us have good reason to be concerned about government efforts
    to pressure private social media platforms into reaching the
    government's preferred decisions about what content we can see
    online," said Adam Goldstein, the vice president of research at
    FIRE.

    "Any governmental requests to social media platforms to review or
    remove certain content," he added, "should be made with extreme
    transparency."

    DHS's expansion into misinformation, disinformation, and
    malinformation represents an important strategic retooling for the
    agency, which was founded in 2002 in response to the 9/11 attacks as
    a bulwark to coordinate intelligence and security operations across
    the government. At the same time, the FBI deployed thousands of
    agents to focus on counterterrorism efforts, through building
    informant networks and intelligence operations designed to prevent
    similar attacks.

    But traditional forms of terrorism, posed by groups like Al Qaeda,
    evolved with the rise of social media, with groups like the Islamic
    State using platforms such as Facebook to recruit and radicalize new
    members. After initial reluctance, social media giants worked
    closely with the FBI and DHS to help monitor and remove
    ISIS-affiliated accounts.

    FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that
    law enforcement agencies needed to rapidly "adapt and confront the
    challenges" posed by terror networks that had proven adept at tapping
    into social media. Intelligence agencies backed new startups
    designed to monitor the vast flow of information across social
    networks to better understand emerging narratives and risks.

    "The Department has not been fully reauthorized since its inception
    over fifteen years ago," the Senate Homeland Security Committee
    warned in 2018. "As the threat landscape continues to evolve, the
    Department adjusted its organization and activities to address
    emerging threats and protect the U.S. homeland. This evolution of
    the Department's duties and organization, including the structure and operations of the DHS Headquarters, has never been codified in
    statute."

    The subsequent military defeat of ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq,
    along with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, left the homeland
    security apparatus without a target. Meanwhile, a new threat entered
    the discourse. The allegation that Russian agents had seeded
    disinformation on Facebook that tipped the 2016 election toward
    Donald Trump resulted in the FBI forming the Foreign Influence Task
    Force, a team devoted to preventing foreign meddling in American
    elections.

    According to DHS meeting minutes from March, the FBI's Foreign
    Influence Task Force this year includes 80 individuals focused on
    curbing "subversive data utilized to drive a wedge between the
    populace and the government."

    "The Department will spearhead initiatives to raise awareness of
    disinformation campaigns targeting communities in the United States,
    providing citizens the tools necessary to identify and halt the
    spread of information operations intended to promote radicalization
    to violent extremism or mobilization to violence," DHS Acting
    Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a September 2019 strategic
    framework.

    DHS also began to broaden its watch to include a wide array of
    domestic actors viewed as potential sources of radicalization and
    upheaval. An FBI official interviewed by The Intercept described
    how, in the summer of 2020, amid the George Floyd protests, he was
    reassigned from his normal job of countering foreign intelligence
    services to monitoring American social media accounts. (The
    official, not authorized to speak publicly, described the
    reassignment on condition of anonymity.)

    And a June 2020 memo bearing the subject line "Actions to Address the
    Threat Posed by Domestic Terrorists and Other Domestic Extremists"
    prepared by DHS headquarters for Wolf, Trump's acting DHS secretary,
    delineates plans to "expand information sharing with the tech sector"
    in order to "identify disinformation campaigns used by DT [domestic
    terrorism] actors to incite violence against infrastructure, ethnic,
    racial or religious groups, or individuals." The memo outlines plans
    to work with private tech sector partners to share unclassified DHS intelligence on "DT actors and their tactics" so that platforms can
    "move effectively use their own tools to enforce user
    agreements/terms of service and remove DT content."

    Biden also prioritized such efforts. Last year, the Biden
    administration released the first National Strategy for Countering
    Domestic Terrorism. The strategy identified a "broader priority:
    enhancing faith in government and addressing the extreme
    polarization, fueled by a crisis of disinformation and misinformation
    often channeled through social media platforms, which can tear
    Americans apart and lead some to violence."

    "We are working with like-minded governments, civil society, and the
    technology sector to address terrorist and violent extremist content
    online, including through innovative research collaborations," the
    strategy document continued, adding that the administration was
    "addressing the crisis of disinformation and misinformation, often
    channeled through social and other media platforms, that can fuel
    extreme polarization and lead some individuals to violence."

    Last year, a top FBI counterterrorism official came under fire when
    she falsely denied to Congress that the FBI monitors Americans'
    social media and had therefore missed threats leading up to the
    attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. In fact, the FBI has
    spent millions of dollars on social media tracking software like
    Babel X and Dataminr. According to the bureau's official guidelines, authorized activities include "proactively surfing the Internet to
    find publicly accessible websites and services through which
    recruitment by terrorist organizations and promotion of terrorist
    crimes is openly taking place."

    Another FBI official, a joint terrorism task force officer, described
    to The Intercept being reassigned this year from the bureau's
    international terrorism division, where they had primarily worked on
    cases involving Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, to the domestic
    terrorism division to investigate Americans, including
    anti-government individuals such as racially motivated violent
    extremists, sovereign citizens, militias, and anarchists. They work
    on an undercover basis online to penetrate social networking chat
    rooms, online forums, and blogs to detect, enter, dismantle, and
    disrupt existing and emerging terrorist organizations via online
    forums, chat rooms, bulletin boards, blogs, websites, and social
    networking, said the FBI official, who did not have permission to
    speak on the record.

    The Privacy Act of 1974, enacted following the Watergate scandal,
    restricts government data collection of Americans exercising their
    First Amendment rights, a safeguard that civil liberty groups have
    argued limits the ability of DHS and the FBI to engage in
    surveillance of American political speech expressed on social media.
    The statute, however, maintains exemptions for information collected
    for the purposes of a criminal or law enforcement investigation.

    "There are no specific legal constraints on t FBI's use of social
    media," Faiza Patel, senior director of the Brennan Center for
    Justice's liberty and national security program told The Intercept.
    "The attorney general guidelines permit agents to look at social
    media before there is any investigation at all. So it's kind of a
    Wild West out there."

    The first FBI official, whom The Intercept interviewed in 2020 amid
    the George Floyd riots, lamented the drift toward warrantless
    monitoring of Americans saying, "Man, I don't even know what's legal
    anymore."

    In retrospect, the New York Post reporting on the contents of Hunter
    Biden's laptop ahead of the 2020 election provides an elucidating
    case study of how this works in an increasingly partisan environment.

    Much of the public ignored the reporting or assumed it was false, as
    over 50 former intelligence officials charged that the laptop story
    was a creation of a "Russian disinformation" campaign. The
    mainstream media was primed by allegations of election interference
    in 2016--and, to be sure, Trump did attempt to use the laptop to
    disrupt the Biden campaign. Twitter ended up banning links to the
    New York Post's report on the contents of the laptop during the
    crucial weeks leading up to the election. Facebook also throttled
    users' ability to view the story.

    In recent months, a clearer picture of the government's influence has
    emerged.

    In an appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast in August, Meta CEO Mark
    Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook had limited sharing of the New York
    Post's reporting after a conversation with the FBI. "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 that there
    was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election,'" Zuckerberg
    told Rogan. The FBI told them, Zuckerberg said, that "'We have it on
    notice that basically there's about to be some kind of dump.'" When
    the Post's story came out in October 2020, Facebook thought it "fit
    that pattern" the FBI had told them to look out for.

    Zuckerberg said he regretted the decision, as did Jack Dorsey, the
    CEO of Twitter at the time. Despite claims that the laptop's
    contents were forged, the Washington Post confirmed that at least
    some of the emails on the laptop were authentic. The New York Times authenticated emails from the laptop--many of which were cited in the
    original New York Post reporting from October 2020--that prosecutors
    have examined as part of the Justice Department's probe into whether
    the president's son violated the law on a range of issues, including
    money laundering, tax-related offenses, and foreign lobbying
    registration.

    Documents filed in federal court as part of a lawsuit by the
    attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana add a layer of new detail
    to Zuckerberg's anecdote, revealing that officials leading the push
    to expand the government's reach into disinformation also played a
    quiet role in shaping the decisions of social media giants around the
    New York Post story.

    According to records filed in federal court, two previously unnamed
    FBI agents--Elvis Chan, an FBI special agent in the San Francisco
    field office, and Dehmlow, the section chief of the FBI's Foreign
    Influence Task Force--were involved in high-level communications that
    allegedly "led to Facebook's suppression" of the Post's reporting.

    The Hunter Biden laptop story was only the most high-profile example
    of law enforcement agencies pressuring technology firms. In many
    cases, the Facebook and Twitter accounts flagged by DHS or its
    partners as dangerous forms of disinformation or potential foreign
    influence were clearly parody accounts or accounts with virtually no
    followers or influence.

    In May, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt took the lead in
    filing a lawsuit to combat what he views as sweeping efforts by the
    Biden administration to pressure social media companies to moderate
    certain forms of content appearing on their platforms.

    The suit alleges governmentwide efforts to censor certain stories,
    especially ones related to the pandemic. It also names multiple
    agencies across the government that have participated in efforts to
    monitor speech and "open collusion" between the administration and
    social media companies. It identifies, for example, emails between
    officials from the National Institutes of Health, including Dr.
    Anthony Fauci, and Zuckerberg at the beginning of the pandemic, and
    reveals ongoing discussions between senior Biden administration
    officials with Meta executives on developing content moderation
    policies on a range of issues, including issues related to elections
    and vaccines.

    Attorneys for the Biden administration have responded in court by
    claiming that the plaintiffs lack standing and that social media
    firms pursued content moderation policies on their own volition,
    without any "coercive" influence from the government. On October 21,
    the judge presiding over the case granted the attorneys general
    permission to depose Fauci, CISA officials, and communication
    specialists from the White House.

    While the lawsuit has a definite partisan slant, pointing the finger
    at the Biden administration for allegedly seeking to control private
    speech, many of the subpoenas request information that spans into the
    Trump era and provides a window into the absurdity of the ongoing
    effort.

    "There is growing evidence that the legislative and executive branch
    officials are using social media companies to engage in censorship by surrogate," said Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George
    Washington University, who has written about the lawsuit. "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."

    During the 2020 election, the Department of Homeland Security, in an
    email to an official at Twitter, forwarded information about a
    potential threat to critical U.S. infrastructure, citing FBI
    warnings, in this case about an account that could imperil election
    system integrity.

    The Twitter user in question had 56 followers, along with a bio that
    read "dm us your weed store locations (hoes be mad, but this is a
    parody account)," under a banner image of Blucifer, the 32-foot-tall
    demonic horse sculpture featured at the entrance of the Denver
    International Airport.

    "We are not sure if there's any action that can be taken, but we
    wanted to flag them for consideration," wrote a state official on the
    email thread, forwarding on other examples of accounts that could be
    confused with official government entities. The Twitter
    representative responded: "We will escalate. Thank you."

    Each email in the chain carried a disclaimer that the agency "neither
    has nor seeks the ability to remove or edit what information is made
    available on social media platforms."

    That tagline, however, concerns free speech advocates, who note that
    the agency is attempting to make an end run around the First
    Amendment by exerting continual pressure on private sector social
    media firms. "When the government suggests things, it's not too hard
    to pull off the velvet glove, and you get the mail fist," said Adam
    Candeub, a professor of law at Michigan State University. "And I
    would consider such actions, especially when it's bureaucratized, as essentially state action and government collusion with the platforms."

    "If a foreign authoritarian government sent these messages," noted
    Nadine Strossen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties
    Union, "there is no doubt we would call it censorship."

    From:
    https://theintercept.com/2022/10/31/social-media-disinformation-dhs/
    --- Synchronet 3.19c-Linux NewsLink 1.113
  • From Rich@rich@example.invalid to comp.misc on Tue Nov 1 16:59:23 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    Ben Collver <bencollver@tilde.pink> wrote:
    The Department of Homeland Security is quietly broadening its efforts
    to curb speech it considers dangerous,

    Which right there that should trigger everyone's "but who watches the watchers" response.

    To make up a current news example, in Putin's Russia today, Putin would consider any news report of a Ukranian counter attack success against
    Russian troops as "dangerous" and desperately want to suppress it.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the world would consider suppressing any news
    report of Ukranian successes as itself being the "dangerous" part.

    Those put into a position where they get to decide what is "right" have enormous power, and some may not utilize that power in a good way.


    --- Synchronet 3.19c-Linux NewsLink 1.113
  • From not@not@telling.you.invalid (Computer Nerd Kev) to comp.misc on Wed Nov 2 07:29:40 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    Rich <rich@example.invalid> wrote:

    Those put into a position where they get to decide what is "right" have enormous power, and some may not utilize that power in a good way.

    Indeed, and although that article is firmly US-focused, it also
    makes me wonder how the same system could be used to influence
    politics in other countries.
    --
    __ __
    #_ < |\| |< _#
    --- Synchronet 3.19c-Linux NewsLink 1.113
  • From Oregonian Haruspex@no_email@invalid.invalid to comp.misc on Mon Nov 7 22:57:32 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    Ben Collver <bencollver@tilde.pink> wrote:
    Truth Cops

    Leaked Documents Outline DHS's Plans to Police Disinformation

    Ken Klippenstein, Lee Fang
    October 31 2022, 2:00 a.m.

    The Department of Homeland Security is quietly broadening its efforts
    to curb speech it considers dangerous, an investigation by The
    Intercept has found. Years of internal DHS memos, emails, and documents--obtained via leaks and an ongoing lawsuit, as well as
    public documents--illustrate an expansive effort by the agency to
    influence tech platforms.

    The work, much of which remains unknown to the American public, came
    into clearer view earlier this year when DHS announced a new
    "Disinformation Governance Board": a panel designed to police
    misinformation (false information spread unintentionally),
    disinformation (false information spread intentionally), and
    malinformation (factual information shared, typically out of context,
    with harmful intent) that allegedly threatens U.S. interests. While
    the board was widely ridiculed, immediately scaled back, and then
    shut down within a few months, other initiatives are underway as DHS
    pivots to monitoring social media now that its original mandate--the
    war on terror--has been wound down.

    Behind closed doors, and through pressure on private platforms, the
    U.S. government has used its power to try to shape online discourse.
    According to meeting minutes and other records appended to a lawsuit
    filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican who is
    also running for Senate, discussions have ranged from the scale and
    scope of government intervention in online discourse to the mechanics
    of streamlining takedown requests for false or intentionally
    misleading information.

    Key Takeaways

    * Though DHS shuttered its controversial Disinformation Governance
    Board, a strategic document reveals the underlying work is ongoing.
    * DHS plans to target inaccurate information on "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."
    * Facebook created a special portal for DHS and government partners
    to report disinformation directly.

    "Platforms have got to get comfortable with gov't. It's really
    interesting how hesitant they remain," Microsoft executive Matt
    Masterson, a former DHS official, texted Jen Easterly, a DHS
    director, in February.

    In a March meeting, Laura Dehmlow, an FBI official, warned that the
    threat of subversive information on social media could undermine
    support for the U.S. government. Dehmlow, according to notes of the discussion attended by senior executives from Twitter and JPMorgan
    Chase, stressed that "we need a media infrastructure that is held accountable."

    "We do not coordinate with other entities when making content
    moderation decisions, and we independently evaluate content in line
    with the Twitter Rules," a spokesperson for Twitter wrote in a
    statement to The Intercept.

    There is also a formalized process for government officials to
    directly flag content on Facebook or Instagram and request that it be throttled or suppressed through a special Facebook portal that
    requires a government or law enforcement email to use. At the time
    of writing, the "content request system" at
    facebook.com/xtakedowns/login is still live. DHS and Meta, the
    parent company of Facebook, did not respond to a request for comment.
    The FBI declined to comment.

    DHS's mission to fight disinformation, stemming from concerns around
    Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, began taking
    shape during the 2020 election and over efforts to shape discussions
    around vaccine policy during the coronavirus pandemic. Documents
    collected by The Intercept from a variety of sources, including
    current officials and publicly available reports, reveal the
    evolution of more active measures by DHS.

    According to a draft copy of DHS's Quadrennial Homeland Security
    Review, DHS's capstone report outlining the department's strategy and priorities in the coming years, the department plans to target
    "inaccurate information" on a wide range of topics, including "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 challenge is particularly acute in marginalized communities,"
    the report states, "which are often the targets of false or
    misleading information, such as false information on voting
    procedures targeting people of color."

    The inclusion of the 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is
    particularly noteworthy, given that House Republicans, should they
    take the majority in the midterms, have vowed to investigate. "This
    makes Benghazi look like a much smaller issue," said Rep. Mike
    Johnson, R-La., a member of the Armed Services Committee, adding that
    finding answers "will be a top priority."

    How disinformation is defined by the government has not been clearly articulated, and the inherently subjective nature of what constitutes disinformation provides a broad opening for DHS officials to make
    politically motivated determinations about what constitutes dangerous
    speech.

    The inherently subjective nature of what constitutes
    disinformation provides a broad opening for DHS officials to make
    politically motivated determinations about what constitutes dangerous
    speech.

    DHS justifies these goals--which have expanded far beyond its
    original purview on foreign threats to encompass disinformation
    originating domestically--by claiming that terrorist threats can be "exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation spread online." But
    the laudable goal of protecting Americans from danger has often been
    used to conceal political maneuvering. In 2004, for instance, DHS
    officials faced pressure from the George W. Bush administration to
    heighten the national threat level for terrorism, in a bid to
    influence voters prior to the election, according to former DHS
    Secretary Tom Ridge. U.S. officials have routinely lied about an
    array of issues, from the causes of its wars in Vietnam and Iraq to
    their more recent obfuscation around the role of the National
    Institutes of Health in funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology's
    coronavirus research.

    That track record has not prevented the U.S. government from seeking
    to become arbiters of what constitutes false or dangerous information
    on inherently political topics. Earlier this year, Republican Gov.
    Ron DeSantis signed a law known by supporters as the "Stop WOKE Act,"
    which bans private employers from workplace trainings asserting an individual's moral character is privileged or oppressed based on his
    or her race, color, sex, or national origin. The law, critics
    charged, amounted to a broad suppression of speech deemed offensive.
    The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, has
    since filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, alleging "unconstitutional censorship." A federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the Stop
    WOKE Act, ruling that the law had violated workers' First Amendment
    rights.

    "Florida's legislators may well find plaintiffs' speech 'repugnant.'
    But under our constitutional scheme, the 'remedy' for repugnant
    speech is more speech, not enforced silence," wrote Judge Mark
    Walker, in a colorful opinion castigating the law.

    The extent to which the DHS initiatives affect Americans' daily
    social feeds is unclear. During the 2020 election, the government
    flagged numerous posts as suspicious, many of which were then taken
    down, documents cited in the Missouri attorney general's lawsuit
    disclosed. And a 2021 report by the Election Integrity Partnership
    at Stanford University found that of nearly 4,800 flagged items,
    technology platforms took action on 35 percent--either removing,
    labeling, or soft-blocking speech, meaning the users were only able
    to view content after bypassing a warning screen. The research was
    done "in consultation with CISA," the Cybersecurity and
    Infrastructure Security Agency.

    Prior to the 2020 election, tech companies including Twitter,
    Facebook, Reddit, Discord, Wikipedia, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and
    Verizon Media met on a monthly basis with the FBI, CISA, and other
    government representatives. According to NBC News, the meetings were
    part of an initiative, still ongoing, between the private sector and government to discuss how firms would handle misinformation during
    the election.

    The stepped up counter-disinformation effort began in 2018 following high-profile hacking incidents of U.S. firms, when Congress passed
    and President Donald Trump signed the Cybersecurity and
    Infrastructure Security Agency Act, forming a new wing of DHS devoted
    to protecting critical national infrastructure. An August 2022
    report by the DHS Office of Inspector General sketches the rapidly accelerating move toward policing disinformation.

    From the outset, CISA boasted of an "evolved mission" to monitor
    social media discussions while "routing disinformation concerns" to
    private sector platforms.

    In 2018, then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen created the Countering
    Foreign Influence Task Force to respond to election disinformation.
    The task force, which included members of CISA as well as its Office
    of Intelligence and Analysis, generated "threat intelligence" about
    the election and notified social media platforms and law enforcement.
    At the same time, DHS began notifying social media companies about voting-related disinformation appearing on social platforms.

    Key Takeaways, Cont'd.

    * The work is primarily done by CISA, a DHS sub-agency tasked with
    protecting critical national infrastructure.
    * DHS, the FBI, and several media entities are having biweekly
    meetings as recently as August.
    * DHS considered countering disinformation relating to content that
    undermines trust in financial systems and courts.
    * The FBI agent who primed social media platforms to take down the
    Hunter Biden laptop story continued to have a role in DHS policy
    discussions.

    In 2019, DHS created a separate entity called the Foreign Influence
    and Interference Branch to generate more detailed intelligence about disinformation, the inspector general report shows. That year, its
    staff grew to include 15 full- and part-time staff dedicated to disinformation analysis. In 2020, the disinformation focus expanded
    to include Covid-19, according to a Homeland Threat Assessment issued
    by Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.

    This apparatus had a dry run during the 2020 election, when CISA
    began working with other members of the U.S. intelligence community.
    Office of Intelligence and Analysis personnel attended "weekly teleconferences to coordinate Intelligence Community activities to
    counter election-related disinformation." According to the IG
    report, meetings have continued to take place every two weeks since
    the elections.

    Emails between DHS officials, Twitter, and the Center for Internet
    Security outline the process for such takedown requests during the
    period leading up to November 2020. Meeting notes show that the tech platforms would be called upon to "process reports and provide timely responses, to include the removal of reported misinformation from the platform where possible." In practice, this often meant state
    election officials sent examples of potential forms of disinformation
    to CISA, which would then forward them on to social media companies
    for a response.

    Under President Joe Biden, the shifting focus on disinformation has continued. In January 2021, CISA replaced the Countering Foreign
    Influence Task force with the "Misinformation, Disinformation and Malinformation" team, which was created "to promote more flexibility
    to focus on general MDM." By now, the scope of the effort had
    expanded beyond disinformation produced by foreign governments to
    include domestic versions. The MDM team, according to one CISA
    official quoted in the IG report, "counters all types of
    disinformation, to be responsive to current events."

    Jen Easterly, Biden's appointed director of CISA, swiftly made it
    clear that she would continue to shift resources in the agency to
    combat the spread of dangerous forms of information on social media.
    "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," said Easterly, speaking at a
    conference in November 2021.

    CISA's domain has gradually expanded to encompass more subjects it
    believes amount to critical infrastructure. Last year, The Intercept reported on the existence of a series of DHS field intelligence
    reports warning of attacks on cell towers, which it has tied to
    conspiracy theorists who believe 5G towers spread Covid-19. One
    intelligence report pointed out that these conspiracy theories "are
    inciting attacks against the communications infrastructure."

    CISA has defended its burgeoning social media monitoring authorities,
    stating that "once CISA notified a social media platform of
    disinformation, the social media platform could independently decide
    whether to remove or modify the post." But, as documents revealed by
    the Missouri lawsuit show, CISA's goal is to make platforms more
    responsive to their suggestions.

    In late February, Easterly texted with Matthew Masterson, a
    representative at Microsoft who formerly worked at CISA, that she is
    "trying to get us in a place where Fed can work with platforms to
    better understand mis/dis trends so relevant agencies can try to prebunk/debunk as useful."

    Meeting records of the CISA Cybersecurity Advisory Committee, the
    main subcommittee that handles disinformation policy at CISA, show a
    constant effort to expand the scope of the agency's tools to foil disinformation.

    In June, the same DHS advisory committee of CISA--which includes
    Twitter head of legal policy, trust, and safety Vijaya Gadde and
    University of Washington professor Kate Starbird--drafted a report to
    the CISA director calling for an expansive role for the agency in
    shaping the "information ecosystem." The report called on the agency
    to closely monitor "social media platforms of all sizes, mainstream
    media, cable news, hyper partisan media, talk radio and other online resources." They argued that the agency needed to take steps to halt
    the "spread of false and misleading information," with a focus on
    information that undermines "key democratic institutions, such as the
    courts, or by other sectors such as the financial system, or public
    health measures."

    To accomplish these broad goals, the report said, CISA should invest
    in external research to evaluate the "efficacy of interventions," specifically with research looking at how alleged disinformation can
    be countered and how quickly messages spread. Geoff Hale, the
    director of the Election Security Initiative at CISA, recommended the
    use of third-party information-sharing nonprofits as a "clearing
    house for information to avoid the appearance of government
    propaganda."

    Last Thursday, immediately following billionaire Elon Musk's
    completed acquisition of Twitter, Gadde was terminated from the
    company.

    The Biden administration, however, did take a stab at making part of
    this infrastructure public in April 2022, with the announcement of
    the Disinformation Governance Board. The exact functions of the
    board, and how it would accomplish its goal of defining and combating
    MDM, were never made clear.

    The board faced immediate backlash across the political spectrum.
    "Who among us thinks the government should add to its work list the
    job of determining what is true and what is disinformation? And who
    thinks the government is capable of telling the truth?" wrote
    Politico media critic Jack Shafer. "Our government produces lies and disinformation at industrial scale and always has. It overclassifies
    vital information to block its own citizens from becoming any the
    wiser. It pays thousands of press aides to play hide the salami with
    facts."

    DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas alluded to broad scope of the
    agency's disinformation effort when he told the Senate Homeland
    Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the role of the
    board--which by that point had been downgraded to a "working
    group"--is to "actually develop guidelines, standards, guardrails to
    ensure that the work that has been ongoing for nearly 10 years does
    not infringe on people's free speech rights, rights of privacy, civil
    rights, and civil liberties."

    "It was quite disconcerting, frankly," he added, "that the
    disinformation work that was well underway for many years across
    different independent administrations was not guided by guardrails."

    DHS eventually scrapped the Disinformation Governance Board in
    August. While free speech advocates cheered the dissolution of the
    board, other government efforts to root out disinformation have not
    only continued but expanded to encompass additional DHS sub-agencies
    like Customs and Border Protection, which "determines whether
    information about the component spread through social media platforms
    like Facebook and Twitter is accurate." Other agencies such as
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Science and Technology
    Directorate (whose responsibilities include "determining whether
    social media accounts were bots or humans and how the mayhem caused
    by bots affects behavior"), and the Secret Service have also expanded
    their purview to include disinformation, according to the inspector
    general report.

    The draft copy of DHS's 2022 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review
    reviewed by The Intercept also confirms that DHS views the issue of
    tackling disinformation and misinformation as a growing portion of
    its core duties. While "counterterrorism remains the first and most important mission of the Department," it notes, the agency's "work on
    these missions is evolving and dynamic" and must now adapt to terror
    threats "exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation spread
    online" including by "domestic violent extremists."

    To accomplish this, the draft quadrennial review calls for DHS to
    "leverage advanced data analytics technology and hire and train
    skilled specialists to better understand how threat actors use online platforms to introduce and spread toxic narratives intended to
    inspire or incite violence, as well as work with NGOs and other parts
    of civil society to build resilience to the impacts of false
    information."

    The broad definition of "threat actors" posing risks to vaguely
    defined critical infrastructure--an area as broad as trust in
    government, public health, elections, and financial markets--has
    concerned civil libertarians. "No matter your political allegiances,
    all of us have good reason to be concerned about government efforts
    to pressure private social media platforms into reaching the
    government's preferred decisions about what content we can see
    online," said Adam Goldstein, the vice president of research at
    FIRE.

    "Any governmental requests to social media platforms to review or
    remove certain content," he added, "should be made with extreme transparency."

    DHS's expansion into misinformation, disinformation, and
    malinformation represents an important strategic retooling for the
    agency, which was founded in 2002 in response to the 9/11 attacks as
    a bulwark to coordinate intelligence and security operations across
    the government. At the same time, the FBI deployed thousands of
    agents to focus on counterterrorism efforts, through building
    informant networks and intelligence operations designed to prevent
    similar attacks.

    But traditional forms of terrorism, posed by groups like Al Qaeda,
    evolved with the rise of social media, with groups like the Islamic
    State using platforms such as Facebook to recruit and radicalize new
    members. After initial reluctance, social media giants worked
    closely with the FBI and DHS to help monitor and remove
    ISIS-affiliated accounts.

    FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that
    law enforcement agencies needed to rapidly "adapt and confront the challenges" posed by terror networks that had proven adept at tapping
    into social media. Intelligence agencies backed new startups
    designed to monitor the vast flow of information across social
    networks to better understand emerging narratives and risks.

    "The Department has not been fully reauthorized since its inception
    over fifteen years ago," the Senate Homeland Security Committee
    warned in 2018. "As the threat landscape continues to evolve, the
    Department adjusted its organization and activities to address
    emerging threats and protect the U.S. homeland. This evolution of
    the Department's duties and organization, including the structure and operations of the DHS Headquarters, has never been codified in
    statute."

    The subsequent military defeat of ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq,
    along with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, left the homeland
    security apparatus without a target. Meanwhile, a new threat entered
    the discourse. The allegation that Russian agents had seeded
    disinformation on Facebook that tipped the 2016 election toward
    Donald Trump resulted in the FBI forming the Foreign Influence Task
    Force, a team devoted to preventing foreign meddling in American
    elections.

    According to DHS meeting minutes from March, the FBI's Foreign
    Influence Task Force this year includes 80 individuals focused on
    curbing "subversive data utilized to drive a wedge between the
    populace and the government."

    "The Department will spearhead initiatives to raise awareness of disinformation campaigns targeting communities in the United States, providing citizens the tools necessary to identify and halt the
    spread of information operations intended to promote radicalization
    to violent extremism or mobilization to violence," DHS Acting
    Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a September 2019 strategic
    framework.

    DHS also began to broaden its watch to include a wide array of
    domestic actors viewed as potential sources of radicalization and
    upheaval. An FBI official interviewed by The Intercept described
    how, in the summer of 2020, amid the George Floyd protests, he was
    reassigned from his normal job of countering foreign intelligence
    services to monitoring American social media accounts. (The
    official, not authorized to speak publicly, described the
    reassignment on condition of anonymity.)

    And a June 2020 memo bearing the subject line "Actions to Address the
    Threat Posed by Domestic Terrorists and Other Domestic Extremists"
    prepared by DHS headquarters for Wolf, Trump's acting DHS secretary, delineates plans to "expand information sharing with the tech sector"
    in order to "identify disinformation campaigns used by DT [domestic terrorism] actors to incite violence against infrastructure, ethnic,
    racial or religious groups, or individuals." The memo outlines plans
    to work with private tech sector partners to share unclassified DHS intelligence on "DT actors and their tactics" so that platforms can
    "move effectively use their own tools to enforce user
    agreements/terms of service and remove DT content."

    Biden also prioritized such efforts. Last year, the Biden
    administration released the first National Strategy for Countering
    Domestic Terrorism. The strategy identified a "broader priority:
    enhancing faith in government and addressing the extreme
    polarization, fueled by a crisis of disinformation and misinformation
    often channeled through social media platforms, which can tear
    Americans apart and lead some to violence."

    "We are working with like-minded governments, civil society, and the technology sector to address terrorist and violent extremist content
    online, including through innovative research collaborations," the
    strategy document continued, adding that the administration was
    "addressing the crisis of disinformation and misinformation, often
    channeled through social and other media platforms, that can fuel
    extreme polarization and lead some individuals to violence."

    Last year, a top FBI counterterrorism official came under fire when
    she falsely denied to Congress that the FBI monitors Americans'
    social media and had therefore missed threats leading up to the
    attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. In fact, the FBI has
    spent millions of dollars on social media tracking software like
    Babel X and Dataminr. According to the bureau's official guidelines, authorized activities include "proactively surfing the Internet to
    find publicly accessible websites and services through which
    recruitment by terrorist organizations and promotion of terrorist
    crimes is openly taking place."

    Another FBI official, a joint terrorism task force officer, described
    to The Intercept being reassigned this year from the bureau's
    international terrorism division, where they had primarily worked on
    cases involving Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, to the domestic terrorism division to investigate Americans, including
    anti-government individuals such as racially motivated violent
    extremists, sovereign citizens, militias, and anarchists. They work
    on an undercover basis online to penetrate social networking chat
    rooms, online forums, and blogs to detect, enter, dismantle, and
    disrupt existing and emerging terrorist organizations via online
    forums, chat rooms, bulletin boards, blogs, websites, and social
    networking, said the FBI official, who did not have permission to
    speak on the record.

    The Privacy Act of 1974, enacted following the Watergate scandal,
    restricts government data collection of Americans exercising their
    First Amendment rights, a safeguard that civil liberty groups have
    argued limits the ability of DHS and the FBI to engage in
    surveillance of American political speech expressed on social media.
    The statute, however, maintains exemptions for information collected
    for the purposes of a criminal or law enforcement investigation.

    "There are no specific legal constraints on t FBI's use of social
    media," Faiza Patel, senior director of the Brennan Center for
    Justice's liberty and national security program told The Intercept.
    "The attorney general guidelines permit agents to look at social
    media before there is any investigation at all. So it's kind of a
    Wild West out there."

    The first FBI official, whom The Intercept interviewed in 2020 amid
    the George Floyd riots, lamented the drift toward warrantless
    monitoring of Americans saying, "Man, I don't even know what's legal anymore."

    In retrospect, the New York Post reporting on the contents of Hunter
    Biden's laptop ahead of the 2020 election provides an elucidating
    case study of how this works in an increasingly partisan environment.

    Much of the public ignored the reporting or assumed it was false, as
    over 50 former intelligence officials charged that the laptop story
    was a creation of a "Russian disinformation" campaign. The
    mainstream media was primed by allegations of election interference
    in 2016--and, to be sure, Trump did attempt to use the laptop to
    disrupt the Biden campaign. Twitter ended up banning links to the
    New York Post's report on the contents of the laptop during the
    crucial weeks leading up to the election. Facebook also throttled
    users' ability to view the story.

    In recent months, a clearer picture of the government's influence has emerged.

    In an appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast in August, Meta CEO Mark
    Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook had limited sharing of the New York
    Post's reporting after a conversation with the FBI. "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 that there
    was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election,'" Zuckerberg
    told Rogan. The FBI told them, Zuckerberg said, that "'We have it on
    notice that basically there's about to be some kind of dump.'" When
    the Post's story came out in October 2020, Facebook thought it "fit
    that pattern" the FBI had told them to look out for.

    Zuckerberg said he regretted the decision, as did Jack Dorsey, the
    CEO of Twitter at the time. Despite claims that the laptop's
    contents were forged, the Washington Post confirmed that at least
    some of the emails on the laptop were authentic. The New York Times authenticated emails from the laptop--many of which were cited in the original New York Post reporting from October 2020--that prosecutors
    have examined as part of the Justice Department's probe into whether
    the president's son violated the law on a range of issues, including
    money laundering, tax-related offenses, and foreign lobbying
    registration.

    Documents filed in federal court as part of a lawsuit by the
    attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana add a layer of new detail
    to Zuckerberg's anecdote, revealing that officials leading the push
    to expand the government's reach into disinformation also played a
    quiet role in shaping the decisions of social media giants around the
    New York Post story.

    According to records filed in federal court, two previously unnamed
    FBI agents--Elvis Chan, an FBI special agent in the San Francisco
    field office, and Dehmlow, the section chief of the FBI's Foreign
    Influence Task Force--were involved in high-level communications that allegedly "led to Facebook's suppression" of the Post's reporting.

    The Hunter Biden laptop story was only the most high-profile example
    of law enforcement agencies pressuring technology firms. In many
    cases, the Facebook and Twitter accounts flagged by DHS or its
    partners as dangerous forms of disinformation or potential foreign
    influence were clearly parody accounts or accounts with virtually no followers or influence.

    In May, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt took the lead in
    filing a lawsuit to combat what he views as sweeping efforts by the
    Biden administration to pressure social media companies to moderate
    certain forms of content appearing on their platforms.

    The suit alleges governmentwide efforts to censor certain stories,
    especially ones related to the pandemic. It also names multiple
    agencies across the government that have participated in efforts to
    monitor speech and "open collusion" between the administration and
    social media companies. It identifies, for example, emails between
    officials from the National Institutes of Health, including Dr.
    Anthony Fauci, and Zuckerberg at the beginning of the pandemic, and
    reveals ongoing discussions between senior Biden administration
    officials with Meta executives on developing content moderation
    policies on a range of issues, including issues related to elections
    and vaccines.

    Attorneys for the Biden administration have responded in court by
    claiming that the plaintiffs lack standing and that social media
    firms pursued content moderation policies on their own volition,
    without any "coercive" influence from the government. On October 21,
    the judge presiding over the case granted the attorneys general
    permission to depose Fauci, CISA officials, and communication
    specialists from the White House.

    While the lawsuit has a definite partisan slant, pointing the finger
    at the Biden administration for allegedly seeking to control private
    speech, many of the subpoenas request information that spans into the
    Trump era and provides a window into the absurdity of the ongoing
    effort.

    "There is growing evidence that the legislative and executive branch officials are using social media companies to engage in censorship by surrogate," said Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George
    Washington University, who has written about the lawsuit. "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."

    During the 2020 election, the Department of Homeland Security, in an
    email to an official at Twitter, forwarded information about a
    potential threat to critical U.S. infrastructure, citing FBI
    warnings, in this case about an account that could imperil election
    system integrity.

    The Twitter user in question had 56 followers, along with a bio that
    read "dm us your weed store locations (hoes be mad, but this is a
    parody account)," under a banner image of Blucifer, the 32-foot-tall
    demonic horse sculpture featured at the entrance of the Denver
    International Airport.

    "We are not sure if there's any action that can be taken, but we
    wanted to flag them for consideration," wrote a state official on the
    email thread, forwarding on other examples of accounts that could be
    confused with official government entities. The Twitter
    representative responded: "We will escalate. Thank you."

    Each email in the chain carried a disclaimer that the agency "neither
    has nor seeks the ability to remove or edit what information is made available on social media platforms."

    That tagline, however, concerns free speech advocates, who note that
    the agency is attempting to make an end run around the First
    Amendment by exerting continual pressure on private sector social
    media firms. "When the government suggests things, it's not too hard
    to pull off the velvet glove, and you get the mail fist," said Adam
    Candeub, a professor of law at Michigan State University. "And I
    would consider such actions, especially when it's bureaucratized, as essentially state action and government collusion with the platforms."

    "If a foreign authoritarian government sent these messages," noted
    Nadine Strossen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties
    Union, "there is no doubt we would call it censorship."

    From:
    https://theintercept.com/2022/10/31/social-media-disinformation-dhs/


    These STASI information jannies are laughably easy to identify, and should
    be bullied in the extreme. Inducing depression or psychosis ideally.

    --- Synchronet 3.19c-Linux NewsLink 1.113