October 31, 2022
The Department of Homeland Security has been working to influence big tech platforms. This became originally evident when the Biden administration launched the ill-fated Disinformation Governance Board early in 2022, but has been a focus of their efforts even beyond that now-defunct unit, and before.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit that revealed via appended meeting minutes that former Microsoft executive Matt Masterson, who was formerly an official with DHS, told a DHS director in February 2022 that "Platforms have got to get comfortable with gov't. It's really interesting how hesitant they remain." This according to The Intercept.
Prior to 2020, it was reported that DHS met with Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, and other platforms in order to coordinate "content moderation" operations. These meetings were part of an ongoing initiative which saw collusion and collaboration between DHS and big tech to determine how "misinformation" would be dealt with on those platforms.
Areas that came under this purview included the withdrawal from Afghanistan, undertaken disastrously by President Joe Biden in August 2021 as well as the origins of the Covid-19 virus, which became controversial enough that users were kicked off social media platforms for expressing the hypothesis that the virus originated in a Wuhan, China lab. A Senate report found last week that this was the most likely scenario. Information that could undermine trust in financial institutions was also targeted.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act, signed by President Donald Trump, opened the door to this as it formed a new branch within DHS, which then undertook to deal with online "disinformation." CISA stated its understanding that the mission of that branch of DHS was "evolved," and meant to communicate their concerns on "disinformation" to social media companies. Social media companies took DHS' word for it.
DHS used concerns about "marginalized communities" to justify their reach.
Much of this effort became evidence as a result of an attempt to "fight disinformation" in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. Both Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey spoke about their platform's effort to suppress and censor reporting from the New York Post. They did this, in part, because the FBI had told these platforms to watch out for a "misinformation" dump.
During the election, there were "weekly teleconference to coordinate Intelligence Community activities to counter election-related disinformation." Since then, meetings have taken place every two weeks.
The government had its fingers all over social media companies. DHS would tell social media companies what they wanted off the platforms via "takedown requests," and then the platforms would submit reports to government. They would be "called on to 'process reports and provide timely responses, to include the removal of reported misinformation from the platform where possible.'"
This was specifically done with election information, which would be flagged by state election officials, submitted to DHS, which would then tell social media companies to pull it.
FBI official Laura Dehmlow stated her concern in March that big tech companies were not accountable to the government, saying "we need a media infrastructure that is held accountable."