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President Joe Biden sits atop a censorship regime made up of federal agencies that has repeatedly pressured Big Tech social media companies to clamp down on those who express views in opposition to his own. 

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to hand down its opinion in Murthy v. Missouri, a case brought by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana to prevent the Biden administration from colluding with and coercing Big Tech companies to censor Americans. A lower court found that, along with top White House staffers like former Press Secretary Jen Psaki, high ranking members of our federal agencies used their power to pressure Big Tech firms into censoring Biden’s political opponents. In their briefs, and during oral argument, the Biden administration and the attorneys for Big Tech shockingly argued that the federal government has a First Amendment right to pressure Big Tech platforms to censor the speech of individuals. The purpose of the First Amendment, of course, is the opposite: To establish–without doubt–the inalienable right of individuals to speak against their government. 

Below in detail are the seven Biden administration-led federal agencies that have actively worked with Big Tech companies, including payment processors, to silence Americans’ speech online.

(1) Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has one of the most entrenched censorship operations in the U.S. government disguised as fighting terrorism and foreign influence operations. The agency’s aims became publicly apparent when it released a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin in February 2022. The bulletin claimed that one of the “key factors” of a “heightened” terrorism threat included “false or misleading narratives regarding unsubstantiated widespread election fraud and COVID-19.” 

Nearly three months later, the DHS briefly established the now-defunct Disinformation Governance Board led by then-Director Nina Jankowicz. Jankowicz has repeatedly claimed the board aimed to uncover foreign influence operations, despite her repeated support for online censorship of American citizens. 

The DHS also gave $3,800,793 of taxpayer money to eight grantees for supposed anti- “misinformation,” “disinformation” and “malinformation” efforts in 2023 as part of its Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program. The program, which is overseen by the infamous Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3), was created under Obama to combat terrorism. However, it was later revamped and weaponized by the Biden administration to award grants to far-left projects for the purposes of establishing “media literacy and online critical thinking initiatives.” The projects in turn push for censorship of conservatives, Christians and the Republican Party.

DHS is also the umbrella agency for the infamous Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which Twitter Files journalist Michael Shellenberger called “the center of gravity for much of the censorship” during a Nov. 2023 hearing. 

CISA also put together the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), a group that used an online portal to work with social media companies by flagging content to be censored. DHS’s CISA enjoyed access to EIP’s work, including reports that listed targeted social media accounts. 

Among those targeted were former President Donald Trump, Fox News Host Sean Hannity, The Federalist Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway and Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY). Outlets such as Newsmax and The Babylon Bee, a satirical news company and member of the MRC-led Free Speech Alliance, were also targeted for censorship. EIP itself reported a 75 percent response rate from Big Tech companies with 35 percent of flagged URLs being censored, according to Shellenberger’s testimony

Protect the Public’s Trust, a government watchdog, also uncovered that DHS actually recommended that the State Department work with EIP on its alleged efforts to thwart foreign influence in the 2020 election.

(2) Department of State

The Global Engagement Center (GEC) is the State Department’s nucleus for censorship, so it should come as no surprise that CISA connected GEC with the EIP. “Our colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security/CISA recommended we talk to you about your current efforts to protect the 2020 elections from foreign interference,” then-GEC academic Adela Levis reportedly wrote in Oct. 2020, according to the Washington Examiner.

GEC, like EIP, worked directly with social media companies to censor speech, which often meant targeting whatever it deemed foreign influence campaigns for censorship. But the agency often misidentified what constituted a foreign influence campaign. 

For example, Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi described that the GEC allegedly sent Twitter a list of “5500 names” that the State Department “believed were ‘Chinese… accounts’ engaged in ‘state-backed coordinated manipulation.’” As Taibbi put it, “it takes about negative ten seconds to find non-Chinese figures,” as the so-called Chinese list “included multiple Western government accounts and at least three CNN employees based abroad.” GEC’s 2020 “Russian Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda” report similarly posited that there was an “ecosystem” of Russian-linked accounts, but according to Taibbi, this could include users who unwittingly retweeted Russia-linked news sources.

GEC also funded the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), initially a U.K.-based group that created a blacklist of certain media organizations that GDI claimed make money by distributing so-called disinformation. The group works to dry up the revenue sources of outlets it disagrees with by distributing recommendation lists to advertisers and discouraging companies from working with those outlets. Unsurprisingly, the targeted outlets, however, are oftentimes simply right-leaning media sources. 

When Gabe Kaminski, an Investigative Reporter for the Washington Examiner, broke a series of stories exposing the State Department, the government agency doubled down. In response to a letter by Rep. Darrell Issa about Kaminski’s findings, the State Department wrote that it stands by the work of the GEC. There is currently a legal effort to end the State Department’s funding of GDI and other similar censorship partnerships.  

MRC Free Speech America uncovered that the U.K., however, is not the only European country exporting censorship to America, and the EIP is not the only censorship operation that the State Department and DHS shared. 

In a two-part study MRC researchers found that the State Department also worked with a German government entity to train educators on how to “inoculate” students against so-called disinformation. Over 700 educators participated in a year-long series of State Department seminars hosted by the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab (the “Rhode Island Lab”). The seminars provided tools to train teachers on how to censor speech, and the program was funded through the previously mentioned DHS Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program.

(3) Department of Justice

The Twitter Files uncovered that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) (like GEC and EIP) was also flagging content for social media companies to censor. 

Taibbi reported in Twitter Files part six that the FBI had “constant and pervasive” contact with Twitter “as if it were a subsidiary.” He explained that he found “over 150” email communications between Twitter’s head of Trust and Safety at the time Yoel Roth and the FBI between January 2020 and November 2022. “[A] surprisingly high number are requests by the FBI for Twitter to take action on election misinformation, even involving joke tweets from low-follower accounts,” Taibbi tweeted.

Twitter Files part nine highlighted that federal agencies “overwhelmed Twitter with requests, sending lists of hundreds of problem accounts” and identifying content as “possible terms of service violation[s]." Taibbi added that “thousands of official ‘reports’ flowed to Twitter from all over, through the  [FBI’s] FITF [Foreign Influence Task Force] and the [its] San Francisco field office.”  

The FBI was also very involved in convincing social media companies to censor the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop scandal just two weeks before the 2020 election. Roth had been meeting with the FBI weekly prior to the release of the New York Post’s bombshell reporting, and he had been prepped for how to react to a hypothetical Russian hack and leak operation that might have something to do with Hunter Biden, according to Roth’s sworn testimony. These meetings occurred while the FBI had the knowledge of and access to the Hunter Biden laptop. 

At the consistent prompting of Twitter special counsel and former FBI counsel James Baker, Roth ordered that the article be censored on the basis of “consensus from experts… that this looks a lot like a hack-and-leak,” according to Shellenberger’s screenshots in Twitter Files part seven.

On Joe Rogan’s podcast, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recalled the FBI similarly pressuring him to censor content, suggesting he be on “high alert” and “vigilant” for potential “Russian propaganda.” The day the New York Post released its bombshell report, however, the FBI refused to comment when Facebook asked during a briefing whether the Hunter Biden laptop was real, according to the Facebook Files released by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). 

Anti-free speech Facebook responded accordingly, not knowing whether the report was true, even though the FBI had known about Hunter Biden’s laptop for nearly a year. “I think it was five or seven days when it was basically being, um, being determined whether it was false. Um, the distribution on Facebook was decreased, but you were still allowed to share it,” Zuckerberg told Rogan. He later clarified that “the ranking in newsfeed was a little bit less, so fewer people saw it than would have otherwise.” When Rogan asked Zuckerberg what percentage of posts were censored, Zuckerberg claimed he did not know but that it was “meaningful.” 

It was meaningful indeed. A 2020 MRC poll found that 45.1 percent were unaware of the financial scandal enveloping Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Full awareness of the Biden scandal would have led 9.4 percent of voters in swing states to abandon Biden, flipping all six of the swing states he won to Trump, giving the president 311 electoral votes.

(4) Department of Defense

As previously mentioned, the State Department through the GEC funded and worked with the GDI, which actively worked to blacklist and defund right-leaning media sources. The Department of Defense worked with NewsGuard, a biased so-called media ratings firm that allegedly rates media according to their reliability. NewsGuard, however, has shown itself to be incredibly biased in favor of the left. Three years running, MRC has exposed the firm for its leftist bias. In the most recent report, the average reliability rating for left-leaning media outlets (identified by AllSides) was 91 percent, whereas the average reliability rating for right-leaning media outlets was 65 percent. These ratings have barely fluctuated over the last few years and have remained relatively the same. 

In 2020, NewsGuard won a contest for the best censorship tool put on by the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN). NewsGuard explained in a slide on its website that the State Department and the Department of Defense were “seeking solutions that would help the agencies ‘evaluate disinformation narrative themes in near real time.’”

NewsGuard received nearly $750,000 for its censorship work with the federal government, which was interested in its Misinformation Fingerprints database. The program, according to NewsGuard, is allegedly a human-created catalog of “false narratives spread online.” The catalog can then work with AI algorithms and “social listening tools” to prebunk and debunk information that it claims is false, prioritizing claims it deems to have a higher “risk of harm.”

But if NewsGuard’s news reliability rating tool is any indication of the firm’s bias, the Misinformation Fingerprints database is likely ripe for human error and disagreement as well. Since the tool is a human-created catalog, who determines what information is “false,” “misleading,” or a “risk of harm”? 

A year after NewsGuard won the contest, it noted in the aforementioned slide that its technology was “being used with AI/ML social listening tools to monitor content containing state-sponsored mis- and disinformation and to identify the main sources publishing known false narratives.”

(5) Department of Health & Human Services

The Murthy v. Missouri case brought by the Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general to hold government officials accountable for pushing social media companies to censor Americans highlighted the Department of Health and Human Services role in censoring Americans online. 

Citing MRC Free Speech America reporting that utilizes the MRC’s exclusive CensorTrack database as a source, the AGs accused Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and numerous other Biden administration officials of “demand[ing] specific changes to platforms’ content-moderation policies and enforcement practices” and “demand[ing] the censorship of specific posts and accounts” in their legal brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuit specifically cites that the Biden administration worked to censor independent journalist Alex Berenson, then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, current presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the so-called “Disinformation Dozen,” a group created by the leftist Center for Countering Digital Hate. 

The lawsuit also notes that the tone of these interactions between the Biden administration via the Surgeon General and the CDC escalated over time. “When such ‘foreboding, inflammatory’ language fails, J.A.51, the White House resorts to both explicit and thinly veiled threats.”

Murthy v. Missouri additionally makes clear that the CDC, like the FBI, GEC and EIP sent lists of posts to social media companies of content to censor. “The CDC sent lists of specific posts, slide decks, and tables of content that it sought to censor… and it organized ‘BOLO’ (‘Be On the Lookout’) meetings with multiple platforms to flag specific posts and themes,” the AGs claim in the lawsuit. 

Things came to a head during a July 15, 2021 White House press briefing when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Murthy publicly called on platforms to censor so-called misinformation and disinformation, which Murthy referred to as “poison.” The next day Biden claimed that Facebook was “killing people” because it was not censoring enough. “After the White House’s escalation of pressure in July 2021, platforms responded by treating the CDC as the final authority on what could and could not be posted on their platforms,” the complainants noted. 

Separately, a federal judge found that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) pressured Big Tech platforms, such as Twitter (now X) and Facebook (now Meta), to censor criticism of the 2020 pandemic lockdowns. Under the direction of its then-director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID instructed the platforms to block speech regarding the “Great Barrington Declaration,” which criticized lockdowns. The NIAID also encouraged a crackdown on reporting on the efficacy of the drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in treating COVID-19.

(6) National Science Foundation

A House Judiciary Select Weaponization Subcommittee hearing in February uncovered that even the National Science Foundation has been involved in government-sanctioned censorship. The committee held a hearing on a damning report that the Biden-led National Science Foundation (NSF) provided grants totaling $13 million to entities developing AI-generated tools to tackle so-called mis- and disinformation.

One of the grantees, tech non-profit Meedan, received $5.75 million for a program that would work with social media apps to “‘identify and limit susceptibility to misinformation’ and ‘pseudoscientific information online.’”

The taxpayer-funded program, dubbed Co-Insights, worked with social media and messaging companies like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal to develop tools to locate violating content to censor more effectively. 

Specifically, the team listed several examples of what kind of information it sought to censor. According to the report, the list included “fear mongering and anti-Black narratives,” “undermining trust in mainstream media,” “glorifying vigilantism” and “weakening political participation.” 

Meedan bragged in its grant proposal about having the ability to monitor 750,000 blog posts and news articles “daily” using its AI tools. Hageman cited this slide as evidence of “the absolute scope of what AI can do for violating people’s First Amendment rights.”

(7) Department of the Treasury

The House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government released a 36-page interim report in March outlining the extent of a government-run financial spying effort. “This financial surveillance was not predicated on any specific evidence of particularized criminal conduct and, even worse, it keyed on terms and specific transactions that concerned core political and religious expression protected by the Constitution,” the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government wrote in the report.

One document shared with financial institutions by federal law enforcement “noted that those Americans who expressed opposition to firearm regulations, open borders, COVID-19 lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and the ‘deep state’ may be potential domestic terrorists,” despite them not having to be suspected of committing any specific crimes. The House report concluded that federal law enforcement used this Stasi-esque line of reasoning to “commandeer” financial institutions to conduct sweeping searches of Americans’ financial data.

The FBI and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) were both flagged as having multiple meetings with a litany of financial and fintech institutions, including Barclays, U.S. Bank, Charles Schwab, HSBC, Bank of America, PayPal, KeyBank, Standard Chartered, Western Union, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Santander, JPMorgan Chase and MUFG. The purpose of these meetings was to coordinate strategies for the aforementioned institutions to “voluntarily” share private customer information with federal law enforcement “outside of normal legal processes,” according to the report.

The Twitter Files also show at least one instance of the Department of the Treasury making a request that Twitter censor content.

MRC Free Speech America continues to research Big Tech censorship and the pressure federal government agencies have placed on social media platforms to silence Americans. This report will be updated as new information and evidence is uncovered in the weeks and months ahead.

MRC Free Speech America Associate Editor Joseph Vazquez, Senior Counsel for Investigations Tim Kilcullen, contributing writer Catherine Salgado and MRC Free Speech America intern Christian Baldwin contributed to this report. 

Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on so-called hate speech and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us using CensorTrack’s contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.