The Department of Justice (DOJ) attempted to delay and possibly use litigation to block the release of documents, requested by the Daily Caller News Foundation, regarding the federal government’s efforts to crack down on “misinformation,” according to a screenshot of a September email published by journalist Lee Fang.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Annalisa Cravens of the Western District of Washington sent an email to University of Washington professor and misinformation researcher Kate Starbird, along with public records coordinator Mike Fleming, on Sept. 26, requesting to delay the release of documents requested by the DCNF pertaining to social media speech censorship, according to the email. Cravens’ email also suggested the possibility of taking legal action to prevent the release of the documents altogether.
“We’ve heard from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the Daily Caller News Foundation has requested documents from the university, which may include documents that belong to CISA,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Annalisa Cravens of the Western District of Washington in an email to Starbird in September.
“Could we please see a copy of any relevant CISA documents that you may plan to produce?” Cravens wrote in the email. “[W]e would also ask to have an extension of time before the records are produced so that we can have time to review them and assess whether we’ll have to file suit to protect them from disclosure.”
Starbird served on an advisory panel under the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA), called the Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Misinformation and Disinformation Subcommittee. The DCNF had filed two public records requests regarding the university’s Center for an Informed Public and its work with CISA. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: DHS ‘Misinformation’ Panel Dismissed Concerns Over Speech Crackdown As ‘Bad Faith’)
CISA routinely works to offer guidance on how social media companies and outside actors should address mis- and disinformation, and has been accused of facilitating censorship.
The Biden Justice Dept intervened to slow and potentially block the release of social media censorship documents from CISA, the gov agency tasked with shaping content moderation policies at Twitter and Facebook. pic.twitter.com/O1Uty87VZt
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) June 6, 2023
The DCNF eventually obtained several documents relating to Starbird’s work on the committee, though the public records requests were significantly delayed. Additionally, it’s not clear if any documents were withheld as a result of the DOJ’s inquiry.
Starbird’s subcommittee issued recommendations to CISA, which is a component of the DHS, in June 2022, regarding the management of information risks to “critical functions” of democracy, such as public health measures, the financial system, elections and the court system. It proposed CISA detect “informational threats,” collaborate with “non-governmental” entities to debunk mis- and disinformation and expand research on misinformation.
The DCNF previously reported that the subcommittee sought to enlist left-wing research groups and pro-censorship organizations in its efforts to crack down on misinformation.
Cravens concluded the email with flattery.
“Coincidentally, Dr. Starbird, I was at your talk this afternoon, and I found it very interesting. I was disappointed when Nick cut off the Q&A at 1 o’clock! Thanks for coming to speak to us,” she wrote.
Following a series of public records requests regarding Starbird’s work with CISA, she tweeted that she had become “the target of harassment mobilized by right wing media/influencers” in October.
The professor has actively engaged in left-wing activism, encouraging her followers to vote for Democrats in a Facebook post excoriating Republicans and former President Donald Trump. She characterized Trump as speaking with “undertones” of “white supremacy and ethno-nationalism” in the post.
The DOJ, DHS and Starbird did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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