Censorship is dead. Long live censorship!
A recent report led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan reveals the Department of Homeland Security created a Stanford University “disinformation” team to censor Americans before the 2020 election. The Stanford Internet Observatory volunteered to lead the “disinformation” group—officially titled the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP)—in collaboration with the University of Washington, Graphika Inc., and the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab).
Emails in the report reveal how the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) worked with the EIP to censor speech on a large scale. The censorship and filtering included topics that the government deemed dangerous or threatening for citizens to consume, like election fraud claims, Hunter Biden’s laptop story, and the Covid lab leak theory.
Interestingly, however, none of these stories were proven false. The Biden campaign simply targeted topics that hindered his campaign narrative and used universities like Stanford as their arm and leg. This type of nefarious plot should have no place in America—and yet, it happened right under our noses.
Here’s how it worked and how Stanford was involved:
Federal agencies and left-wing non-profits including MITRE, Common Cause, the Democratic National Committee, the Defending Digital Democracy Project, and the NAACP submitted misinformation reports to Stanford and the EIP. Groups of Stanford students hired by the SIO would then use technology and algorithms to identify similar content and accounts on major social media platforms (i.e. Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, etc.). Once posts containing so-called misinformation were located, the EIP contacted the Big Tech platforms with suggestions on censoring each post and account in question.
Stanford and its EIP partners advised social media companies to remove content, suspend accounts, reduce account discoverability in a practice sometimes called “shadow banning,” and subject-specific users to enhanced monitoring and scrutiny. Through this practice thousands of posts from American citizens were throttled or removed entirely, often done covertly and in violation of the First Amendment—which protects citizens from government control over speech and press.
The EIP’s mission statement explains how the team “focuses on a narrow scope of topics that are demonstrably harmful to the democratic process: attempts to suppress voting, reduce participation, confuse voters, or delegitimize election results without evidence.” The EIP did not, however, explicitly clarify a definition of “demonstrably harmful,” leaving room for potential suppression of otherwise Constitutionally-protected free speech.
Ironically, the EIP carried out their mission by suppressing freedom of speech and eliminating the voices of those who defied their agenda, all by using the language of democracy to thwart it.
Stanford’s involvement reveals a deeper problem in American society: the sanctioned suppression of free speech and thought. Progressives use “disinformation” as a weaponized epitaph, discouraging speech, and ushering in dystopian levels of censorship. Conservatives can no longer freely voice their opinions or engage in healthy discourse.
It is also important to note that much of the recent censorship-related breaking news was a result of Elon Musk’s takeover of X, formerly known as Twitter. Without Musk, thousands of internal files would not have been released to journalists Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, and Bari Weiss. Collectively, these journalists published the “The Twitter Files,” exposing the Stanford Internet Observatory's collaboration with Twitter to suppress election and COVID information. Their work demonstrates the all-too-cozy relationship between the US Government, Social Media companies (such as Twitter), Stanford and the EIP to suppress speech.
The SIO released a statement addressing the allegations. Instead of addressing the issue, the SIO claimed “it is difficult to rebut all of these inaccurate claims without repeating the falsehoods and contributing to their further spread.” This lazy, non-response sums up how nonsensical and arrogant their entire agenda is. They could not come up with a single defense for themselves. Or, worse yet, perhaps the SIO knows they don’t need to because they’ll never be held accountable.
As politics become increasingly polarized, it is vital for people to have the resources to seek out truth and nuance in any given situation. It is not Stanford's nor the government’s role to carry out the process for us. Suppression of information relating to something as huge as presidential elections is dangerous and frankly undemocratic.
While it would be ideal for people not to rely solely on social media for news, the reality is that most people will use X / Twitter, Facebook, YouTube as a primary source of information. Suppressing and removing opinions simply because they do not suit the agenda of the ruling political party should terrify all believers of democracy. It should never be an option in a country like the US. Suppressing speech in the name of “safety” is neither safe nor democratic. Freedom of speech, diversity of thought, and healthy debate are essential to human rights and flourishing.
Stanford, do better.