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DHS fight against misinformation, disinformation raising concerns

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The Department of Homeland Security was founded after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001. The goal of the agency was to prevent another terrorist attack. However, as the war on terror wound down, DHS has found new targets to investigate: Americans on social media.

Reporting by The Intercept shows DHS started to shift its focus after the 2016 presidential election, when reports of Russian interference were rampant. The Intercept reports the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is a part of DHS, worked with the FBI and the heads of Twitter and Facebook to police the flow of misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. The government has yet to define what it considers misinformation, disinformation or malinformation.

According to The Intercept, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, and Twitter both created portals for government offices to quickly flag posts they considered misinformation, disinformation or malinformation. DHS said once a social media company was notified, it could respond however it wished.

On the surface, private companies working independently to stop the spread of lies is often considered a good thing. But to free speech advocates like professors or attorneys, when government gets involved in deciding what people should and shouldn’t see, and that involvement includes high-ranking officials making strong recommendations, it’s believed to be akin to a fascism starter pack.

The Biden White House tried to bring CISA’s work on tracking social media accounts into the open earlier this year with the formation of the Disinformation Governance Board. That board was publicly lambasted and the idea was quickly abandoned, but CISA is still operating. And many of the stated missions of the Governance Board continue.

Notes from a DHS strategy session leaked to The Intercept even show one DHS official suggesting the agency used third-party nonprofits as a “clearinghouse of information” so the public wouldn’t think the government was spreading propaganda.

According to DHS’ own security review, which the department uses to set future policy, while counterterrorism is the main mission, DHS said the work is dynamic and must “adapt to terror threats exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation spread online.”

Editors note: This story has been changed to correct the date DHS was founded.

THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WAS FOUNDED AFTER 9-11 WITH THE GOAL OF PREVENTING ANOTHER TERRORIST ATTACK.

BUT AS THE WAR ON TERROR WOUND DOWN, DHS FOUND NEW TARGETS TO INVESTIGATE; AMERICANS ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

REPORTING BY THE INTERCEPT SHOWS DHS STARTED TO SHIFT ITS FOCUS AFTER THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, WHEN REPORTS OF RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE WERE RAMPANT.

THE INTERCEPT REPORTS THE CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY, WHICH IS A PART OF DHS, WORKED WITH THE FBI AND THE HEADS OF TWITTER AND FACEBOOK TO POLICE THE FLOW OF MISINFORMATION, DISINFORMATION, AND MALINFORMATION.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS YET TO DEFINE WHAT IT CONSIDERS MIS, DIS, OR MAL-INFORMAITON.

ACCORDING TO THE INTERCEPT, FACEBOOK’S PARENT COMPANY, META, AND TWITTER BOTH CREATED PORTALS FOR GOVERNMENT OFFICES TO QUICKLY FLAG POSTS THEY CONSIDERED MIS, DIS OR MALINFORMATION.

DHS SAYS ONCE A SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANY WAS NOTIFIED, IT COULD RESPOND HOWEVER IT WISHED.

ON THE SURFACE, PRIVATE COMPANIES WORKING INDEPENDENTLY TO STOP THE SPREAD OF LIES IS OFTEN CONSIDERED A GOOD THING.

BUT ASK JUST ABOUT ANY FREE SPEECH PROFESSOR OR LEGAL ATTORNEY AND THEY’LL TELL YOU WHEN THE GOVERNMENT GETS INVOLVED IN DECIDING WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD AND SHOULDN’T SEE, AND THAT INVOLVEMENT INCLUDES HIGH-RANKING OFFICIALS MAKING STRONG RECOMMENDATIONS, WELL, THAT’S LIKE A FASCISM STARTER PACK.

THE BIDEN WHITE HOUSE TRIED TO BRING CISA’S WORK ON TRACKING SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS INTO THE OPEN EARLIER THIS YEAR WITH THE FORMATION OF THE DISINFORMATION GOVERNANCE BOARD.

THAT BOARD WAS PUBLICLY LAMBASTED AND THE IDEA QUICKLY ABANDONED, BUT CISA IS STILL OPERATING, AND MANY OF THE STATED MISSIONS OF THE GOVERNANCE BOARD CONTINUE.

NOTES FROM A DHS STRATEGY SESSION LEAKED TO THE INTERCEPT EVEN SHOW ONE DHS OFFICIAL SUGGESTING THE AGENCY USE THIRD-PARTY NON-PROFITS AS A “CLEARINGHOUSE OF INFORMATION” SO THE PUBLIC WOULDN’T THINK THE GOVERNMENT WAS SPREADING PROPAGANDA.

ACCORDING TO DHS’ OWN SECURITY REVIEW, WHICH THE DEPARTMENT USES TO SET FUTURE POLICY, WHILE COUNTERTERRORISM IS THE MAIN MISSION DHS SAID THE WORK IS DYNAMIC, AND MUST ADAPT TO TERROR THREATS EXACERBATED BY MISINFORMATION AND DISINFORMATION SPREAD ONLINE.

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The Department of Homeland Security was founded after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001. The goal of the agency was to prevent another terrorist attack. However, as the war on terror wound down, DHS has found new targets to investigate: Americans on social media.

Reporting by The Intercept shows DHS started to shift its focus after the 2016 presidential election, when reports of Russian interference were rampant. The Intercept reports the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is a part of DHS, worked with the FBI and the heads of Twitter and Facebook to police the flow of misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. The government has yet to define what it considers misinformation, disinformation or malinformation.

According to The Intercept, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, and Twitter both created portals for government offices to quickly flag posts they considered misinformation, disinformation or malinformation. DHS said once a social media company was notified, it could respond however it wished.

On the surface, private companies working independently to stop the spread of lies is often considered a good thing. But to free speech advocates like professors or attorneys, when government gets involved in deciding what people should and shouldn’t see, and that involvement includes high-ranking officials making strong recommendations, it’s believed to be akin to a fascism starter pack.

The Biden White House tried to bring CISA’s work on tracking social media accounts into the open earlier this year with the formation of the Disinformation Governance Board. That board was publicly lambasted and the idea was quickly abandoned, but CISA is still operating. And many of the stated missions of the Governance Board continue.

Notes from a DHS strategy session leaked to The Intercept even show one DHS official suggesting the agency used third-party nonprofits as a “clearinghouse of information” so the public wouldn’t think the government was spreading propaganda.

According to DHS’ own security review, which the department uses to set future policy, while counterterrorism is the main mission, DHS said the work is dynamic and must “adapt to terror threats exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation spread online.”

Editors note: This story has been changed to correct the date DHS was founded.

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