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State Department Won’t Say If It’s Colluding With Big Tech To Censor Speech Ahead Of 2024 Election

The State Department didn’t respond when pressed on whether it’s colluding with Big Tech to censor so-called ‘disinformation.’

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The State Department is refusing to say whether it is communicating with Big Tech platforms to censor free speech online leading up to the 2024 election.

The agency’s silence on the matter came after The Federalist asked about a new working group launched by the United States and Poland on Monday that seeks to counter Russian “disinformation” about Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Called the “Ukraine Communications Group (UCG),” the body will involve the two aforementioned countries and representatives from NATO states, and work to “coordinate messaging, promote accurate reporting of Russia’s full-scale invasion, amplify Ukrainian voices, and expose Kremlin information manipulation.”

According to the Associated Press, James Rubin, the special envoy and coordinator for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), was involved with and attended the UCG’s inaugural launch in Warsaw. As The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland previously explained, GEC “funded the development of censorship tools” that work to silence (primarily conservative) speech online and “used ‘government employees to act as sales reps pitching … censorship products to Big Tech.'”

Notably, Rubin and the GEC are named defendants in a lawsuit filed by The Federalist, The Daily Wire, and the state of Texas in December to stop the federal government’s censorship operations.

When pressed by The Federalist on whether the UCG or its participating members — including the State Department and GEC — will be collaborating with Big Tech and social media companies to censor what they deem to be “Russian disinformation,” a State Department spokesman claimed the working group “is a coordination mechanism between governments and will not involve collaboration with private technology companies or social media companies.”

“The UCG member states intend to work together to unify our communication efforts and ensure the world hears Ukraine’s story and never forgets the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to wipe Ukraine off the map and subjugate its people,” the representative said.

However, when subsequently pressed on whether the State Department or GEC are collaborating or plan to collaborate with Big Tech and social media companies outside of their work with the UCG to counter so-called “disinformation,” the spokesman did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment.

Meanwhile, the FBI confirmed to The Federalist last month it has resumed communications with social media platforms ahead of the 2024 election. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) — another wing of the government’s censorship-industrial complex — declined to comment when asked about its alleged resumed communications with Big Tech.

GEC’s Censorious Past

GEC has acted as a critical component of the federal government’s orchestrated campaign to silence free speech.

Through GEC, the State Department funded the U.K.-based Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a so-called “disinformation” tracking organization “working to blacklist and defund conservative news sites,” including The Federalist. As Victoria Marshall previously wrote in these pages, GDI’s “shadowy network of tracking groups labels the content on these independent news sites as disinformation so brands will not offer ads on their sites.”

The goal, as described by Marshall, is “to financially hurt independent publications and ultimately prevent them from disseminating content.” Other non-leftist media outlets GDI’s 2022 “exclusion list” labeled as the “riskiest” pushers of supposed “disinformation” include The Daily Wire, RealClearPolitics, and Newsmax.

NewsGuard — another “disinformation” tracking group withhistory of assigning bogus ratings to news organizations — has also received federal grant money through an initiative sponsored by GEC.

An interim report released by House Republicans in November revealed GEC’s censorship efforts in U.S. elections. According to that analysis, GEC — along with CISA — colluded with Stanford University to pressure Big Tech companies into censoring what they claimed to be “disinformation” during the 2020 contest.

At the heart of this operation was the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), “a consortium of ‘disinformation’ academics” spearheaded by the Stanford Internet Observatory that coordinated with DHS and GEC “to monitor and censor Americans’ online speech” ahead of the 2020 election.

Created “at the request” of CISA, EIP allowed federal officials to “launder [their] censorship activities in hopes of bypassing both the First Amendment and public scrutiny.” As documented in the interim report, this operation attempted to censor “true information, jokes and satire, and political opinions” and submitted flagged posts from prominent conservative figures to Big Tech companies for censorship. Among those targeted were The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway and Sean Davis.

Will SCOTUS Save the Day?

Federal agencies’ ability to continue coordination with Big Tech to censor posts they deem unfavorable was made possible due to an October ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case known as Murthy v. Missouri.

In that case, which was filed in 2022, the then-attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana alleged that the federal government’s pressuring of social media companies to censor free speech online constitutes a violation of the First Amendment. U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty agreed and issued a preliminary injunction on July 4, 2023, barring federal agencies from colluding with Big Tech to censor posts they don’t like.

Despite being later upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, SCOTUS lifted the 5th Circuit’s injunction without explanation in October. (The 5th Circuit’s injunction excluded the State Department, with the court’s majority claiming Doughty “erred in finding that … State Department Officials likely violated Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.”)

In his dissent, Associate Justice Samuel Alito espoused fears that the high court’s “unfortunate” decision “will be seen by some as giving the Government a green light to use heavy-handed tactics to skew the presentation of views on the medium that increasingly dominates the dissemination of news.”

“The injunction applies only when the Government crosses the line and begins to coerce or control others’ exercise of their free-speech rights,” Alito wrote. “Does the Government think that the First Amendment allows Executive Branch officials to engage in such conduct? Does it have plans for this to occur between now and the time when this case is decided?”

Alito was joined in his dissent by Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a final verdict in Murthy v. Missouri this month.


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