Congress is set to expose what may be the largest censorship system in U.S. history
Below is my column in the Hill
on the first hearings this week to be held by the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. It could be one of the most consequential investigations for free speech in decades if it pulls back the curtain on government censorship programs. After the historic release of the Twitter Files by Elon Musk, questions remain on any similar coordination with other social media companies with federal agencies like the FBI to target views considered “disinformation” or “misinformation.”
(Article by Jonathan Turley republished from JonathanTurley.org
Here is the column:
This coming week a new House select subcommittee will hold its first hearing
on the FBI and the possible “weaponization” of government agencies. A variety of such controversies have contributed to plunging public trust in government and the FBI in particular.
The role of the FBI in prior scandals will remain a point of heated debate in Congress. However, members of both parties should be able to agree on the need to investigate one of the most serious allegations: Censorship by surrogate.
Many of the allegations of FBI bias are worthy of investigation. Some of those allegations are problems of personnel who can be removed. But a far more menacing problem has emerged in recent months with the release of information from Twitter.
The “Twitter files
” revealed an FBI operation to monitor and censor social media content — an effort so overwhelming and intrusive that Twitter staff at one point complained internally that “they are probing & pushing everywhere
.” The reports have indicated that dozens of FBI employees worked on the identification and removal of material on a wide range of subjects and that Twitter largely carried out their requests.
Nor was it just the FBI, apparently. Emails reveal FBI figures like a San Francisco assistant special agent in charge asking Twitter executives to “invite an OGA
” (or “Other Government Organization”) to an upcoming meeting. A week later, Stacia Cardille, a senior Twitter legal executive, indicated the OGA was the CIA, an agency under strict limits regarding domestic activities.
Twitter’s own ranks included dozens
of ex-FBI agents and executives, including James Baker, who featured greatly in prior FBI instances of alleged bias
The Twitter files also show various FBI offices monitoring social media and flagging “misleading” information on various subjects.
The dozens of disclosed emails are only a fraction of Twitter’s files and do not include still-undisclosed but apparent
government coordination with Facebook and other social media companies. Much of that work apparently was done through the multi-agency Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), which operated secretly it seems to censor citizens.
Ironically, during the outcry over establishing a Disinformation Governance Board
at the Department of Homeland Security, Biden administration officials had to have known they already were employing an extensive censorship system. When the administration finally relented and disbanded the disinformation board, that censorship work appears to have continued unimpeded through the FITF and agency censors.
According to reports, one email in August 2022 sent “long lists of newspapers, tweets or YouTube videos
” deemed to be voicing “anti-Ukraine narratives.” Even satirical and comedy sites
reportedly were pegged by the social media police.
What is most striking is that the FBI was not responding to false claims about its operations. Instead, these censorship demands were the result of policing “misinformation” and “disinformation” on subjects ranging from political corruption to elections.
Some apologists continue to defend this process, saying the FBI was only objecting to disinformation the way that citizens did on Twitter. That is not true; the government reportedly used back channels and regular meetings to flag unacceptable statements. Indeed, even if it were true, many things are more dangerous when done by government. When your neighbor attacks your opinion, it is just the crank next door. But when it is your government on the attack, it is far more threatening and stigmatizing.
Read more at: J0nathanTurley.org