DHS Alters Website, Claims It No Longer Tells Big Tech Platforms What To Censor

There is no firm evidence that the values of the DHS’s primary censorship agency have changed, despite its current posturing.

By Hudson Crozier

Updated April 6, 2023: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that CISA helped flag "millions" of social media items as part of the Election Integrity Partnership. It helped file "tickets" targeting thousands of items reaching millions of viewers.

What’s happening: The Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, has denied on its website and in recent public statements that it works with Big Tech platforms to censor political speech. This comes as Congress is considering raising the agency’s budget, and numerous Republicans are concerned about censorship.

Background: CISA’s website long boasted that the agency “serve[d] as a switchboard for routing disinformation concerns to … social media platforms” as far back as 2018. In 2020, CISA filed "tickets" of content for social media platforms to suppress as election “misinformation.” It seeks to uphold the Biden administration’s narratives on political topics such as “racial justice” and COVID-19 and uses left-wing groups such as the Global Disinformation Index as resources.

A change of heart? Ahead of the House’s budget hearing, CISA changed its website so that it only mentions “foreign” misinformation and disinformation when it previously included “domestic.” CISA’s director told the House that the agency doesn’t flag social media posts “at all,” emphasized the agency’s focus on “foreign influence,” and echoed GOP rhetoric on “diversity of thought.”

Between the lines: There is no firm evidence that the values of the DHS’s censorship agency have changed, despite its current posturing. It simply wants the Republican-controlled House to pass its budget. It could, in fact, still target political speech under the guise of fighting “foreign influence,” just as several government officials labeled the Hunter Biden laptop story a Russian hoax. As the House considers a long-term plan to increase CISA’s cybersecurity powers, free speech concerns are likely to persist.

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