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Virginia Election Official Allegedly Tied Online ‘Misinformation’ To ‘Parents Against Critical Race Theory’

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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An election official in Loudoun County, Virginia, connected alleged “misinformation” about elections to opponents of critical race theory when they tried to censor a video alongside a government-funded nonprofit, according to a House Judiciary Committee report released Monday.

The Loudoun County official sent a Tweet with a video of a county official to the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) with the Center for Internet Security (CIS), a nonprofit funded by the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the House report found. (RELATED: Democratic Election Official Tried To Censor Ted Cruz By Partnering With Government-Funded Nonprofit: House Report)

“I am reaching out because our office has recently been the focus of a misinformation campaign on the website VA Overwatch. This website is connected to Parents Against Critical Race Theory and the information is being shared on both sides,” the Loudoun County Office of Elections’ Outreach Coordinator emailed EI-ISAC in August 2022, the House report shows. The official’s name is redacted in the report. VA Overwatch is a conservative Twitter page with less than 1,000 followers at the time of writing.

“This video is misinformation because it was posted as a part of a larger campaign to discredit the word of [redacted] and give the impression to voters that she is being negligent and breaking laws,” the Loudoun County official added. EI-ISAC forwarded the email to Twitter and cc’d two Loudoun County government officials. Twitter owner Elon Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino have said they are committed to free speech. It is unclear if the platform acted on EI-ISAC’s suggestion.

EI-ISAC describes itself as a “community of dedicated election officials and cybersecurity professionals working side-by-side to ensure the integrity of elections,” its website states. EI-ISAC and its sister organization within CIS, the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, will receive $27 million from CISA as part of its fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget, the agency’s budget overview shows.

CISA gave the nonprofit $27 million in FY2022 and FY2023 as part of a “Cooperative Agreement” for the agency to fund the nonprofit’s “situational awareness, best practices, information sharing, and operational response,” among other practices. CISA advises state and local election officials to flag “misinformation” to EI-ISAC in a publicly available toolkit for combatting “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation” (MDM) about elections.

“The Center for Internet Security (CIS) was established to support the cybersecurity needs of the election subsector. The CIS can be leveraged to report real-time MDM via email at misinformation@cisecurity.org. Be sure to include links and screenshots, as well as details on the misinformation and your jurisdiction,” the toolkit says.

Loudoun County’s election official followed the process outlined by the CISA toolkit. The office is required by Virginia’s Locality Election Security Standards to be a member of EI-ISAC and report “misinformation” on social media to EI-ISAC, a Loudoun County official told the Daily Caller. Loudoun County’s election office is a nonpartisan entity tasked with ensuring the county’s elections are run smoothly.

“The Center for Internet Security (CIS) works side by side with all election officials, regardless of political affiliation, to promote the integrity and security of elections across the country. At the request of the election community, the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), a Congressionally-funded organization operated by CIS, undertook an initiative in 2020 to serve as a conduit for election offices to report factually incorrect information about election administration to social media companies. This effort was under the direction of the prior administration,” CIS previously told the Daily Caller.

“Based on positive feedback from the election community, this same support was continued by CIS in the 2022 midterm election cycle. The reporting by elections officials was focused on potential violations of social media company terms of service and was conducted without consideration of party or partisanship. All decisions to retain, annotate, or remove content were made solely by the social media companies.”

Critical race theory was a significant issue in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election, won by Republican state Gov. Glenn Youngkin over former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The Youngkin administration has rescinded critical race theory programs from the Virginia Department of Education in accordance with Youngkin’s executive order to remove “inherently divisive concepts” from public schools.

Parents rights organizations in Loudoun County have fought against critical race theory in the municipality’s public schools and advocated for curriculum transparency from administrators. Loudoun County parents were allegedly targeted by local teachers in March 2021 who planned to publicly expose the parents who objected to critical race theory in school curricula.

Critical race theory teaches students to view every personal interaction based on race, and claims America is an irredeemably racist country. Its proponents oppose merit-based policy, objective truths and race neutrality in favor of “anti-racism” and “racial equity” frameworks.

“CISA does not and has never censored speech or facilitated censorship; any such claims are patently false. Every day, the men and women of CISA execute the agency’s mission of reducing risk to U.S. critical infrastructure in a way that protects Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy,” CISA Executive Director Brandon Wales said in a statement.

“In response to concerns from election officials of all parties regarding foreign influence operations and disinformation that may impact the security of election infrastructure, CISA mitigates the risk of disinformation by sharing information on election literacy and election security with the public and by amplifying the trusted voices of election officials across the nation,” Wales added.