Lawfare Is Killing the Corrupt Censorship-Industrial Complex

Silenced. (Credit: Unsplash/Brian Wangenheim)

Proponents of free speech may have won a significant victory over the authoritarian left’s censorship brigade. A prominent anti-speech organization is shutting down its election misinformation policing effort after a slew of lawsuits and congressional subpoenas lodged against it.

The Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) has been under scrutiny as a government-funded entity that purports to combat the spread of misinformation on digital platforms. In reality, the group was just another apparatus for shutting down right-leaning viewpoints on social media.

The SIO is one of several organizations that have been exposed over recent years for collaborating with the state to target certain viewpoints on COVID-19, elections, and other critical issues.

The Election Integrity Partnership it co-led with the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public for the first time claimed sometime between May 28 and May 31 that it “finished its work after” the 2022 cycle and “will not be working on the 2024 or future elections.”

News-rating service NewsGuard, which generally rates left-leaning sources as far more reliable than right-leaning sources, could be the next to fall under defamation and First Amendment litigation and a new House Oversight Committee investigation about its business relationships with government entities, appearance of bias and conflicts of interest.

Twenty-one months after “Just the News” exclusively reported on EIP’s hidden-in-plain-sight campaign to mass-report alleged misinformation to social media platforms for suppression in the months around the 2020 election, with a self-declared 35% success rate, a combination of litigation, public records requests and “Twitter Files” released by new owner Elon Musk exposed the scope of the so-called censorship-industrial complex and role of multiple federal agencies.

The news has received mixed reviews. Crypto law professor Preston Byrne celebrated the development, characterizing the SIO as “overrated” and pointing out that the group’s “entire schtick was to cherry pick content on right-coded sites so WaPo and NYT could write hit pieces.”

On the other side of the debate, freelance reporter Jane Lytvynenko lamented the turn of events, calling the SIO “a powerhouse for investigating online manipulation campaigns” and arguing that “Losing that team’s work before the 2024 election because of a Republican attack campaign on these institutions is devastating for the field.”

She’s right. The censorship brigade could be experiencing a “devastating” loss in their efforts to maintain progressive supremacy over digital platforms. In this case, lawfare seems to be working.

However, this does not mean the fight is over. Journalist Matt Taibbi, who played a critical role in revelations coming from the Twitter Files, issued a caveat, warning that “even more aggressive EIP-type programs are in development for use in this cycle … using some of the same personnel, and making use of support from deep-pocketed funders of anti-disinformation programs.”

This development comes as a Congressional committee has slapped the State Department with a subpoena after it refused to turn over records on its funding of censorship campaigns.

The State Department is facing a congressional subpoena for failing to turn over records on programs Republicans say cultivated “censorship-by-proxy and revenue interference of American small businesses,” the Washington Examiner has learned.

The subpoena, which was served late Thursday by the House Small Business Committee, is the latest development in a one-year investigation into an embattled State Department-housed office called the Global Engagement Center, which the Washington Examiner reported granted $100,000 to the Global Disinformation Index. The latter group, which is based in London and has an affiliated nonprofit organization registered in the United States, works to pressure advertisers to boycott right-leaning media outlets.

That the U.S. government funded the Global Disinformation Index inspired a new law last year banning some Pentagon money from being allowed to go to the London-based organization, which lost a key partner in Microsoft amid scrutiny. The funding also prompted a lawsuit brought by the Federalist and the Daily Wire, two right-leaning websites, against the Biden administration for propping up “one of the most egregious government operations to censor the American press in the history of the nation,” according to a complaint. Oracle announced it was cutting ties with GDI in 2023, though a report from April of this year indicates the corporation still has a relationship with the British group.

Can we get more of this, please? The aggressive pushback against the left’s efforts to silence people online has been rather refreshing.

The fact that the government essentially forced taxpayers to fund organizations bent on suppressing their voices is already questionable on First Amendment grounds. It is a brazen effort to subvert the Constitution to crack down on viewpoints that are not state-approved under the guise of promoting national security. The reality is that these people care nothing for the Constitution or our natural right to express ourselves freely and will do whatever they can to prevent us from doing so. It appears the court system has provided a viable avenue to fight back.


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