Revealed: New Documents Expose Collusion Between Government and Private Actors to Control Social Media Speech

In the lead-up to the 2020 election, national security and academia experts noted a gap in the government’s authority to stop what it saw as misinformation and disinformation. The Department of Homeland Security, Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), and other third-party organizations collaborated to form a public-private partnership known as the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP). RealClearInvestigations obtained detailed records revealing the nature and mechanics of EIP’s operations, which involved flagging and pressuring social media platforms to censor speech related to election processes and outcomes. This speech included statements by former President Trump, opinions based on government records, and speculative tweets from various individuals.

EIP, SIO, CISA, and other government and non-government entities collected hundreds of millions of social media posts to identify offending speech. This information was forwarded to the platforms for potential censorship. CISA played a significant role by pressuring platforms to increase censorship and switchboarding reports of election-related misinformation and disinformation on social media. EIP’s founders, including former Facebook and cybersecurity executives, have connections to national security agencies. The development of EIP and similar organizations arose in response to the 2016 election, which critics allege was influenced by social media platforms enabling Russian meddling.

Before the 2020 election, CISA expanded its mandate to include combatting online speech about election administration and results. As part of EIP’s efforts, the partnership lobbied social media companies and surveilled millions of posts to flag content for potential suppression. EIP’s government partners included CISA, the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, and the State Department Global Engagement Center. The partnership coordinated its efforts through a digital ticketing system to highlight and take action against offending social media content. During the 2020 election cycle, EIP generated 639 tickets, covering 4,784 unique URLs containing millions of shared posts, with a focus on delegitimizing election results. Platforms such as Twitter, Google, and Facebook responded to 75% or more of the tickets.