The government has a formal process with Facebook and Instagram to flag content that they want censored as part of a broader effort to crack down on so-called “misinformation,” a new report by The Intercept revealed.
Individuals with government or law enforcement emails can access a special Facebook portal to request the censorship or suppression of specific content, The Intercept reported. As of Monday, Oct. 31, the “content requests system” for the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies to report “disinformation” is still live.
The Intercept also found that the DHS has plans to expand its censorship efforts, targeting “inaccurate information” on numerous topics, including “the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, racial justice, U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the nature of U.S. support to Ukraine.”
A draft copy of the DHS’s Quadrennial Homeland Security Review showed the department’s strategy for combatting so-called “misinformation,” which includes a special focus on “marginalized communities,” according to The Intercept.
“The challenge is particularly acute in marginalized communities, which are often the targets of false or misleading information, such as false information on voting procedures targeting people of color,” the report states.
The government does not clearly explain how “disinformation” is defined, the Intercept reported, but the DHS justifies its censorship efforts by asserting that terrorist threats are “exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation spread online.”
While the scope of the department’s efforts is unclear, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, Wikipedia, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Verizon Media and other tech companies met with FBI and CISA representatives on a monthly basis before the 2020 election.
“There is growing evidence that the legislative and executive branch officials are using social media companies to engage in censorship by surrogate,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University. “It is axiomatic that the government cannot do indirectly what it is prohibited from doing directly. If government officials are directing or facilitating such censorship, it raises serious First Amendment questions.”