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Efforts to Stop Alleged Disinformation And The Possible Transformation of Censorship

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Freedom of speech is under attack in a number of different ways.  Conservative speakers are routinely suppressed on college campuses, speech codes grow more burdensome, the interpretation of anti-discrimination laws is stifling certain viewpoints, and saying the “wrong” thing online can cost you your job.  One of the more dangerous developments in regard to freedom of speech is the efforts by numerous federal agencies to limit speech or blacklist individuals and websites stating conservative or libertarian viewpoints.  While this censorship is typically framed as an effort to combat disinformation, the targeted entities are typically conservative or libertarian in their outlook and express viewpoints disfavored by the federal government.  In some cases, federal agencies like the FBI have directly provided lists of social media accounts that the federal agencies want censored on social media platforms.

Other efforts are more indirect.  These indirect efforts involve federal agencies funding organizations that promote censorship of disfavored viewpoints.  The United States State Department apparently became a hub for indirect censorship efforts within the United States.

The release of the “Twitter Files” showed the intensive involvement by various federal intelligence and law enforcement organizations in silencing conservative and libertarian viewpoints on social media.  The “Twitter Files” showed that the FBI and other federal agencies, such as the CIA, were working with Twitter to shut down many social media accounts on dubious grounds.  The close interaction between law enforcement and intelligence agencies within the federal government and Twitter led one of the journalists (Michael Schellenberger) involved in publishing of the “Twitter Files” to coin the phrase the “Censorship Industrial Complex.”

The Twitter Files, however, revealed only one part of what appears to be a complex and wide-ranging effort by different facets of the federal government to censor conservative and libertarian viewpoints.  Reports have surfaced that the State Department was funneling money to an organization called the Global Disinformation Index (“GDI”) that identified various conservative and libertarian websites as being purveyors of disinformation.  GDI received funds from the State Department through the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.  The Global Disinformation Index was apparently trying to convince advertising companies to stop the flow of advertising money to websites flagged as purveyors of disinformation by GDI’s index.  GDI’s “index” predominantly flagged conservative and libertarian websites as purveyors of disinformation.  In other words, the State Department, through its Global Engagement Center, was supporting GDI’s efforts to stop the flow of advertising revenue to conservative and libertarian websites in the United States.

The State Department’s indirect funding of the Global Disinformation Index was only part of their censorship efforts.  The State Department, through its Global Engagement Center, also funded an entity called “Disinfo Cloud” that was involved in the development of programs designed to address so-called disinformation.  Disinfo Cloud provided programs to a range of organizations with the goal of limiting freedom of speech.  It now appears that one of the organizations Disinfo Cloud was encouraging to utilize its censorship tools was LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is used by millions of individuals in connection with employment searches and business networking.  Given Disinfo Cloud’s focus, it is possible that the government was trying to have LinkedIn use Disinfo Cloud’s programs in order to create blacklists that would prevent disfavored individuals from using LinkedIn.  In turn, making it more difficult for the targeted individuals to obtain employment or business.  We don’t know if LinkedIn utilized any of Disinfo Cloud’s censorship tools, but the fact that the State Department had a connection to such an attempt is deeply troubling.

The State Department claims it has severed its ties with the Global Disinformation Index and it may have shut down Disinfo Cloud.  This does not change the fact that the State Department was involved in what appeared to be significant censorship efforts.  The censorship efforts the federal government is undertaking are shocking and possibly unconstitutional.

The First Amendment provides U.S. citizens with the right to freely express opinions without the fear of government interference or repercussions.  As previously discussed, this right is being increasingly threatened for those holding unfavorable viewpoints.  If you believe that your right to free speech has been violated, it is essential that you enlist the help of an experienced Chicago civil rights attorney. Contact The Law Offices of George M. Sanders.

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