On Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government Chairman Mike Johnson (R-LA), Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform, and Antitrust Chairman Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Congressman Dan Bishop (R-NC) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas related to several inconsistencies in his recent testimony before the Committee on July 26, 2023, regarding the Department and its censorship activity.
In response to Congressman Johnson, Secretary Mayorkas stated that “the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency [CISA] does not censor speech,” which is contradicted by the findings of a federal court in Missouri v. Biden, a case concerning government-induced censorship on social media platforms. In response to Congressman Bishop, Secretary Mayorkas testified that CISA engaged in “switchboarding” in 2018 and 2020, but the Committee has obtained evidence that in February 2021, well after the 2020 election, CISA officials flagged so-called disinformation to social media companies. Additionally, Congressman Massie raised concerns to Secretary Mayorkas about CISA’s elastic and Orwellian definition of the term ‘malinformation’—especially when used as the basis of censorship activities— and how it presents serious issues for Americans’ civil liberties.
Excerpts of the letter:
“We write regarding your July 26, 2023, testimony before the Committee at a hearing on Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. Your testimony at the hearing contained a number of assertions about the Department’s censorship activities that are inconsistent with the findings of a federal court and information in the Committee’s possession. Accordingly, we write to provide you with an opportunity to correct your testimony to ensure it is accurate and complete.
“During the hearing, in response to a question from Representative Johnson, you testified unequivocally that ‘the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency [CISA] does not censor speech.’ Your assertion, however, is contradicted by the findings of a federal court in Missouri v. Biden, a case concerning government-induced censorship on social media platforms. As the court found in its motion granting a preliminary injunction, ‘the evidence shows that the CISA Defendants met with social-media companies to both inform and pressure them to censor content protected by the First Amendment. They also apparently encouraged and pressured social-media companies to change their content-moderation policies and flag disfavored content.’ CISA’s actions were part of a censorship-by-proxy apparatus employed by the executive branch to remove disfavored content online.
“In seeking to justify CISA’s censorship activities, you testified during the hearing that ‘what we do at CISA . . . is identify the tactics that adverse nation[-]states use to weaponize disinformation.’ However, as Representative Johnson explained to you, ample evidence exists that CISA was not focused on only foreign disinformation, but rather indiscriminately flagged so-called ‘misinformation’—including domestic speech protected by the First Amendment—to various social media platforms. For example, the Missouri court found that ‘CISA did not do an analysis to determine what percentage of misinformation was ‘foreign derived.’ Therefore, CISA forward[ed] reports of information to social-media platforms without determining whether they originated from foreign or domestic sources.’ The Committee has also independently obtained a significant volume of evidence, including documents produced by CISA, demonstrating that CISA flagged alleged ‘misinformation,’ including protected political speech of domestic origin, and even social media posts in 2020 by President Donald Trump.
“In response to a question from Representative Bishop about CISA’s practice of flagging ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’—known internally as ‘switchboarding’—you testified that CISA engaged in ‘switchboarding’ in 2018 and 2020 but that it is ‘no longer employed by CISA.’ However, the Committee has obtained communications from February 2021, well after the 2020 election, between CISA and social media companies in which CISA officials flagged so-called disinformation ‘related to existing narratives regarding domestic elections’ for Facebook ‘at the request of an elections stakeholder.’
“Moreover, during a July 26, 2022, meeting of an advisory subcommittee to CISA, CISA’s then-Senior Advisor of Election Security, Kim Wyman, stated that CISA is ‘currently transferring this work’—referring to CISA’s ‘switchboard function’—to the ‘Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs),’ which are operated by the CISA-funded Center for Internet Security (CIS). Wyman admitted that CISA moved the ‘switchboard function’ from CISA to a CISA-funded third-party organization in order to evade the ongoing Missouri litigation. This evidence indicates that CISA has outsourced its switchboarding to a CISA-funded entity.
“Finally, in response to Representative Massie’s question asking you to define ‘malinformation,’ you stated that ‘we’re dealing with false information that is used for a particular purpose.’ However, CISA defines so-called ‘malinformation’ as information that is ‘based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.’ Therefore, your definition of ‘malinformation’ as ‘false information’ is inconsistent with your own department’s definition of the term. Such an elastic and Orwellian definition of the term—especially when used as the basis of censorship activities—presents serious issues for American civil liberties.”
Read the full letter to Secretary Mayorkas here.