Judicial Watch Sues Homeland Security for Records on Censorship Meetings with Big Tech
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department Homeland Security (DHS) for records showing cooperation between the Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (CISA) and social media platforms to censor and suppress free speech (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:23-cv-00552)).
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (a component of DHS) failed to respond to a December 2022 request for:
Records and communications of Jen Easterly, Director, CISA; Christopher Krebs, Former Director, CISA; Matt Masterson, Former CISA Senior Cybersecurity Advisor; and Brian Scully, CISA Senior Cybersecurity Advisor, regarding:
- CISA facilitated or hosted USG-industry meetings with Meta (@meta.com); Facebook (@facebook.com); Twitter (@twitter.com); Wikimedia Foundation (@wikimedia.org); Pinterest (@pinterest.com); LinkedIn (@linkedin.com); concerning election security;
- Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council Meetings;
- Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council Joint MDM Working Group Meetings; and
- Preparatory meetings with any employees of the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Office of the Director of National Intelligence; National Security Agency; U.S. Secret Service; concerning any of the aforementioned USG-industry meetings and/or Coordinating Council Meetings.
On December 2, 2022, journalist Matt Taibbi used the social media platform Twitter to expose the “Twitter Files,” which include multiple mentions of the Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency’s censorship activities.
A December 16 tweet thread includes:
37.Reports also came from different agencies. Here, an employee recommends “bouncing” content based on evidence from “DHS etc”
A supplemental tweet thread on December 18 reports:
2. In July of 2020, San Francisco FBI agent Elvis Chan tells Twitter executive Yoel Roth to expect written questions from the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), the inter-agency group that deals with cyber threats.
3. The questionnaire authors seem displeased with Twitter for implying, in a July 20th “DHS/ODNI/FBI/Industry briefing,” that “you indicated you had not observed much recent activity from official propaganda actors on your platform.”
9. He then sent another note internally, saying the premise of the questions was “flawed,” because “we’ve been clear that official state propaganda is definitely a thing on Twitter.” Note the italics for emphasis.
A March 9 tweet thread includes:
3. But Twitter was more like a partner to government. With other tech firms it held a regular “industry meeting” with FBI and DHS, and developed a formal system for receiving thousands of content reports from every corner of government: HHS, Treasury, NSA, even local police
4. Emails from the FBI, DHS and other agencies often came with spreadsheets of hundreds or thousands of account names for review. Often, these would be deleted soon after.
19. The same agencies (FBI, DHS/CISA, GEC) invite the same “experts” (Thomas Rid, Alex Stamos), funded by the same foundations (Newmark, Omidyar, Knight) trailed by the same reporters (Margaret Sullivan, Molly McKew, Brandy Zadrozny) seemingly to every conference, every panel.
Other “Twitter files” released by Elon Musk show that FBI pressure on “Russian disinformation” led to censorship:
San Francisco FBI agent Elvis Chan “[sent] 10 documents to Twitter’s then-Head of Site Integrity, Yoel Roth, through Teleporter, a one-way communications channel from the FBI to Twitter,” the evening before the release of the Post story.
The “Twitter files” show the FBI pushed Twitter to also censor countless Twitter users who tweeted concerns (and jokes) about election integrity just before the 2020 election.
In testimony before the “House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government” Taibbi reported extensive collusion between Big Tech and government, at all levels – including the Biden White House, the Democratic National Committee, and federal, state and local law enforcement – all meant to stifle free speech and withhold information from the American people.
In May 2022, the States of Missouri and Louisiana sued President Biden and several federal employees in their official capacities for violation of the First Amendment.
In one of the depositions in the case, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Cyber Branch for San Francisco Division of the FBI, Elvis Chan, testified he and fellow officials had weekly meetings with major social media companies to warn against Russian disinformation attempts ahead of the 2020 election. The lawsuit also produced Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency meeting minutes that discuss its attempts to manage information being posted by social media contributors.
The Twitter Files also mention a report titled The Long Fuse: Misinformation and the 2020 Election, which was prepared by the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), a left-leaning collective of organizations that worked with the Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency on its censorship of online information during the 2020 election.
“There is an unholy conspiracy in the Biden administration to censor Americans in collusion with Big Tech,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This new Judicial Watch lawsuit shows the censorship abuse is furthered by unlawful secrecy and cover-ups.
Judicial Watch is heavily involved in countering government and Big Tech censorship. Buried within the Twitter Files are references and descriptions of meetings and communications Judicial Watch has been investigating through FOIA requests and lawsuits.
For example, Judicial Watch recently sued the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for records and communications maintained by its leadership, including Chairman Lina Khan, about Twitter and its owner Elon Musk. FTC document-demands to Twitter obtained by the House Judiciary Committee show onerous requests for all documents about Elon Musk and documents concerning Twitter’s work with journalists to disclose to the public the details about the government’s and Twitter’s censorship of American citizens. A House report titled “The Weaponization of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): An Agency’s Overreach to Harass Elon Musk’s Twitter” details:
Twitter allowed … journalists, as part of their reporting on government censorship by proxy, to review internal communications and correspondence between Twitter employees and federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
[T]he FTC’s first demand in its letter sent after the initial installment of the Twitter Files did not concern what private user information may have been at risk. Instead, the FTC demanded that Twitter “[i]dentify all journalists and other members of the media to whom” Twitter has granted access to since Musk bought the company. The FTC even named some of the specific journalists – “Bari Weiss, Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, [and] Abigail Shrier” – with whom Twitter has engaged on the Twitter Files. The FTC also demanded to know any “other members of the media to whom You have granted any type of access to the Company’s internal communications” for any reason whatsoever.
In February, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against HHS for records on pressuring Big Tech to censor “COVID misinformation,” specifically with regard to any communications made between the Surgeon General’s communications director and social media companies — Twitter, Facebook, etc. — regarding COVID-19 vaccines. The Twitter Files reveal how the pharmaceutical industry lobbied social media over COVID vaccine content.
Also in February, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for records of communication related to the work of the Election Integrity Partnership that could detail coordinated censorship activities. One section of the Twitter Files calls the FBI “Twitter’s Subsidiary,” illustrated by an episode where Twitter, one day just prior to the 2020 election, received so many moderation (censorship) requests from the FBI that a Twitter executive congratulated staffers at the end for completing the “monumental undertaking.”
In January 2023, not long after the Twitter Files were made public, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ for records of communications between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and social media sites regarding foreign influence in elections and the Hunter Biden laptop story. Announcing the lawsuit, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “The FBI was literally paying Twitter to censor Americans just before the 2020 election … they are now covering up their misconduct.”
In November 2022, Judicial Watch sued the DHS for all records of communications between CISA and the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), which reportedly was active during the 2022 midterm elections. Among the news outlets flagged by EIP were websites for Just the News, New York Post, Fox News, Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Epoch Times and Breitbart. A week later, in a Senate floor speech, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) described revelations from the Twitter Files about Twitter and 2020 election interference, and other instances of Biden administration collusion with social media firms to censor and withhold information from the American people.
In September 2022, Judicial Watch sued the Secretary of State of the State of California for censoring a Judicial Watch election integrity video.
In April 2021, Judicial Watch published documents revealing how California state officials pressured social media companies (Twitter, Facebook, Google (YouTube)) to censor posts about the 2020 election.
In May 2021, Judicial Watch revealed documents showing that Iowa state officials pressured social media companies Twitter and Facebook to censor posts about the 2020 election.
In July 2021, Judicial Watch uncovered records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that revealed that Facebook coordinated closely with the CDC to control the COVID narrative and “misinformation” and that over $3.5 million in free advertising given to the CDC by social media companies.