Twitter Files journalist Michael Shellenberger called government censorship efforts “profoundly un-American” in his Congressional testimony Thursday.
The Nov. 30 Congressional hearing on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government” featured Twitter Files journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger. “In 2020, the Department of Homeland Security’s CISA violated the First Amendment and interfered in the election,” Shellenberger testified in his opening statement. “[I]n 2021, CISA and the White House violated the First Amendment and undermined America’s response to the COVID[-19] pandemic by demanding that Facebook and Twitter censor content” that even Facebook confessed was “often true,” including about the COVID-19 vaccines. Shellenberger offered solutions to the free speech crisis too.
CISA, Shellenberger emphasized, now focuses on “cognitive security, which is basically attempting to control the information environment and how people think about the world.” He asked for CISA to be abolished and added a request to Congress to make “Section 230 liability protections contingent upon social media platforms” having transparent algorithms and allowing users to moderate their own legal content. Shellenberger also encouraged Congress to “prohibit government officials from asking the platforms to remove content.” If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the government in the ongoing Missouri v. Biden case, Shellenberger ended, such government requests for censorship should be, by law, required to be public “instantaneously.”
Shellenberger began his statement by mentioning his previous testimony nine months ago on government-Big Tech censorship, before noting, “the scope, power, and lawbreaking of the Censorship Industrial Complex are even worse than we had realized.” He referred to evidence he and his colleagues recently published on the Cyber Threat Intelligence League (CTIL) or the birth of government anti-disinformation work. In their piece, Shellenberger, Taibbi and independent journalist Alex Gutentag exposed U.S. and UK military contractors who interfered in the 2020 election and targeted Americans’ free speech, in what Shellenberger labeled a major First Amendment violation. Shellenberger noted that the federal government cannot “induce, encourage or promote” what it cannot legally do on its own – in this case censorship – “and there is now a large body of evidence proving that the government did precisely that.”
The UK “former” intelligence analyst who headed CTIL received her instructions to form “a counter-disinformation project to ‘stop a repeat of 2016’” while at the Obama White House in 2017, Shellenberger explained, citing a whistleblower. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) “has been … the center of gravity for much of the censorship,” Shellenberger went on. “The National Science Foundation [NSF] financ[ed] the development of censorship and disinformation tools and other federal government agencies play[ed] a supportive role.”
Shellenberger also discussed the CISA-created Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) with government contractors, noting that EIP and “the Virality Project urged Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to censor social media posts [of] ordinary citizens and elected officials alike.” EIP itself reported a 75 percent response rate from tech companies with 35 percent of flagged URLs being censored. Both CISA and the White House violated the First Amendment, he said.
“All of this is profoundly un-American,” Shellenberger insisted. “One’s commitment to free speech means nothing if it does not extend to your political enemies.” He cited Prof. Jeff Kosseff’s book “Liar in a Crowded Theater” to note that the view that “the government can censor false speech and/or speech that ‘causes harm’ is mostly wrong,” based on Supreme Court rulings. Shellenberger urged Congress “to abolish CISA.” Short of that, Shellenberger advised the creation of “significant guardrails and oversight to prevent such censorship from happening again.”
Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand government agencies and 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 at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.