State Dept Office Behind Conservative Media Blacklist Worked To Censor Speech Ahead Of 2020 Election, Report Finds

(Photo by Alastair Pike / AFP) (Photo by ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images)

James Lynch Contributor
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A unit inside the State Department worked with third party affiliates to pressure social media companies into censoring online speech ahead of the 2020 presidential election, according to a report released Monday.

The Global Engagement Center (GEC) inside the State Department worked with the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) to combat “disinformation” online ahead of the 2020 presidential election, according to a report released Monday by the House Judiciary Committee and Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. (RELATED: FBI Agent Who Won’t Testify Before Jim Jordan Had ‘Mandate’ To Pressure Platforms Into Censorship, House Report Finds)


On Oct. 15, 2020, the day after Twitter and Facebook censored the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, a GEC staffer emailed a meeting invitation to EIC members with the subject line “GEC/Election Integrity Partnership,” the report displays. The meeting was scheduled for the next day “to discuss a concrete idea we have for possible support of the EIP effort,” the email shows. (RELATED: Government Censors Linked Hunter Biden Laptop Story To Apparent ‘Web Of Falsehoods’ About Joe Biden, Lawsuit Reveals)

After the presidential election, a “Counter Disinformation Analyst” at the GEC sent a thank you email on Dec. 4, 2020 to EIP members from the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) and the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public (CIP), the report indicates.

“I want to send my sincerest thanks for allowing me to participate in the Election Integrity Partnership with the GEC. My colleagues and I appreciated your taking the time to meet with us before the election and accommodating my involvement on short notice,” the analyst wrote.

“I am proud to have worked on such an impactful initiative with so dedicated a team,” the analyst added. Four other State Department employees were cc’ed on the analyst’s email.

The GEC is tasked with coordinating across the federal government to monitor foreign propaganda and “disinformation,” a mandate it deployed to get involved with domestic information efforts by funding third party organizations. (RELATED: State Department Helped Fund ‘Disinformation’ Research Group That Reportedly Blacklists Conservative News Sites)

One of those organizations, the Global Disinformation Index, created a “dynamic exclusion list” to identify purveyors of “disinformation” online, including conservative news outlet such as the Washington Examiner and New York Post.

Another GEC-backed group, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL), falsely accused ordinary American social media users of being foreign agents, according to a batch of the “Twitter files” documents reported by independent journalist Matt Taibbi.

The GEC similarly flagged Twitter accounts for promoting the lab leak theory of the coronavirus’ origins, Taibbi reported. Twitter’s leadership internally criticized the GEC for being “political” and “press happy,” Taibbi discovered. Assessments from the FBI and Department of Energy have determined the coronavirus most likely originated from a lab in Wuhan, China.

The EIP is a coalition of third party organizations that worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (CISA) to flag online speech for social media platforms ahead of the 2020 election, the Judiciary Committee report outlines.

“The GEC and GEC-funded entities have, on multiple occasions flagged content to social media platforms that included Americans engaged in constitutionally protected speech,” the report lays out.

“Unlike CISA’s pretext of peripheral non-involvement, the EIP openly admitted that the GEC ‘reported tickets’ to the EIP in its final report looking back on the 2020 election cycle. In fact, according to that report, the GEC was one of the most frequently tagged organizations in the EIP’s Jira system,” the report adds.

The State Department was included in the Missouri v. Biden First Amendment lawsuit challenging the federal government’s ability to coordinate with social media platforms to censor speech. A lower court judge issued an injunction in July to prevent the State Department and other government agencies from working with social media platforms to censor speech.

The State Department canceled its meetings with Facebook after the lower court ruling, pending further guidance, The Washington Post reported.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a more narrow injunction in September that did not include the State Department among its list of government agencies. The Fifth Circuit expanded its injunction in October to include CISA along with the FBI, White House, Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control and the FBI.

The Supreme Court is set to hear the Missouri v. Biden case and paused the Fifth Circuit’s injunction in the meantime.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified on Oct. 31 and said the bureau is complying with the injunction despite the pause from the Supreme Court. He also acknowledged how the court rulings have changed how the FBI interacts with social media companies.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.