The Government’s Partnership With the Private Sector to Stifle Free Speech Has Just Begun

AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File

If you think what has been revealed about the government’s effort to censor Americans is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In fact, a recent report suggests that the state is just getting started when it comes to silencing certain voices under the guise of rooting out misinformation and disinformation.

The Twitter Files have already exposed much of what federal agencies are doing. They have been collaborating with social media companies to suppress various kinds of opinions and reports on the internet.

I, and several others, have written extensively about how the State Department is paying organizations to supposedly address the spread of fake news on Big Tech platforms. The censorship operations have already been quite far-reaching. But if a report from The Federalist is any indication, Big Brother is just getting started.

From the report:

The federal government has awarded more than 500-plus contracts or grants related to “misinformation” or “disinformation” since 2020. One predominant area of research pushed by the Department of Defense involves the use of AI and ML technology to monitor or listen to internet “conversations.”

Originally used as a marketing tool for businesses to track discussions about their brands and products and to track competitors, the DOD and other federal agencies are now paying for-profit public relations and communications firms to convert their technology into tools for the government to monitor speech on the internet.

The government’s plan to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to monitor and censor our speech is a blatant attack on our freedom of expression. The Federalist’s research has revealed that our tax dollars are funding the development of this dangerous technology, which will allow the government to track Americans’ conversations and silence any speech it deems “problematic.”

That pesky First Amendment prohibits the state from directly suppressing speech. But it appears the authoritarians in our federal government have found a way around this. In partnership with Big Tech, Big Business, and media outlets, they seek to tamp down on viewpoints that go against the narrative they wish to perpetuate. This is a clear violation of our right to free speech, all under the guise of combating “misinformation” and “disinformation.”

This AI and ML technology will monitor everything we say and read, with the government having entered into over 500 contracts or grants related to “misinformation” or “disinformation” since 2020. The government is paying for-profit public relations and communications firms to convert their technology into tools to monitor speech on the internet.

With the government identifying supposed “influence operations” and how messages spread in real-time, it will have the ability to preempt the amplification of certain ideas, arguments, information, or opinons, squelching even true reporting before the general populace has an opportunity to learn the news. This is an egregious infringement on our First Amendment rights.

The AI and ML technology under development will dig into every conceivable mode of conversation, covering everything from news sites, blogs, social platforms, podcasts, TV and radio, to email newsletters. This includes tracking everyone’s speech, not just foreign or state-connected actors, as both the government grants and the web pages of the monitoring companies confirm.

Speech need not involve terrorism, acts of war, or even our electoral process for the government to consider it within its purview to fact-check. The government’s plan to silence Americans is a threat to our democracy and a betrayal of our fundamental values. We must take action to protect our freedom of speech and prevent the government from using our own tax dollars to silence us.

The databases monitored by some of the companies that have been awarded government contracts for this technology are extensive and far-reaching. For example, PeakMetrics has received $1.5 million, to track millions of news sites, blogs, global social platforms, podcasts, TV and radio, and email newsletters.

Similarly, Omelas Inc. has received over $1 million and gathers data from “the most influential newspapers, TV channels, government offices, militant groups, and more across a dozen social networks and messaging apps, thousands of websites, and thousands of RSS feeds.”

Alethea Group, which was awarded a Phase I award of nearly $50,000, boasts a broad range of coverage across data sources including mainstream and “fringe” social media platforms, peer-to-peer messaging platforms, blogs and forums, state-affiliated media sites, “gray” propaganda sites, and the dark web.

Newsguard, which received a $750,000 award from the Department of Defense (DOD), offers two databases: an unreliable reliability ratings database of thousands of news and information websites and a second database of alleged hoaxes.

Meanwhile, Primer, which received a $3 million award, offers a database that looks to news and media data sources, publicly captured images, the dark web, cyberattacks shared by the general public, and classified and unclassified data sources.

Primer also partners with Flashpoint, which adds “Telegram, Reddit, Discord, and ‘the deep and dark web'” to the databases mined. With the government paying for such extensive and diverse data mining efforts, concerns about the potential for privacy violations and government overreach are more than warranted.

The evidence is clear: The government’s censorship efforts extend far beyond what most Americans realize. The “Twitter Files” and recent events have exposed the government’s obsession with silencing any speech deemed harmful, from discussions about elections and vaccines to even runs on grocery stores. And what’s driving this alarming trend? It is an idea known as the “Great Power Competition” perspective of foreign relations, which views China and Russia as constant threats to America’s power, influence, and interests.

This means that any speech, no matter how innocuous or tangential, may be fair game for censorship efforts if it even touches on America’s “power, influences, and interests.” It’s time for Americans to wake up to the danger this poses to our fundamental right to free speech. We cannot allow our government to use foreign relations as an excuse to silence dissenting voices and control the flow of information. We must stand up and defend our rights before it’s too late.

The threat to free speech is looming larger than ever before, and unfortunately, it seems like everyone from Democrats to Republicans, to the activist media, is gung-ho about pushing further in this direction. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the public to recognize the dangers that free speech is facing. To make matters worse, those who are trying to sound the alarm are being unjustly labeled as spreaders of disinformation.

But there is still hope. If enough ordinary Americans hear the message and take action, it may not be too late to stop the spread of censorship. It’s time for the public to demand that Congress take action to shut down this censorious operation and protect our First Amendment rights. Without a mass outcry against this brazen attack on our natural rights, the government will have no reason to hit the brakes on this endeavor.


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