Recent revelations show how the Homeland Security Department tried to justify its efforts in censoring information on social media platforms. The agency’s efforts to hide its attempts to suppress certain viewpoints on the internet brought it to increased scrutiny earlier this year amid widespread concerns that federal agencies were violating the First Amendment.
Fox News has published an exclusive report that reveals internal DHS documents where officials attempted to justify their actions at the time of the formation of the White House’s disastrous disinformation board.
The recent revelations in a Fox News article about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), regarding its stance on disinformation, and misinformation have reignited long-standing concerns over the federal government’s approach to freedom of speech. The relationship between First Amendment and national security is at the heart of this discussion.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, argues that it has the authority to regulate “misinformation and disinformation”, despite the disbandment of its highly criticized Disinformation Governance Board.
According to heavily redacted memos obtained exclusively by Fox New Digital and reviewed by Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the agency circulated a justification for the launch of the disinformation boards that DHS had regulatory or statutory power in “the MDM Space”, short for “misinformation and disinformation”.
The group claims that DHS relies on secret authorities to carry out its “MDM Space” work because DHS has withheld the content of these memos, which AFPF had requested via FOIA.
Kevin Schmidt, Director of Investigations at the AFPF, told Fox News Digital that if DHS believed it had the authority to police online speech it should tell the public what these authorities were.
He said: “The idea of any agency with so much political power believing it has the right to decide what ideas are good or true upsets our delicate power balance established by our founders.”
The documents are opaque and heavily redacted. This is a cause for concern. The public may never know the extent of DHS’s censorship activities. This is not the first instance that DHS has tried to conceal its actions. Transparency is essential for accountability.
A second issue is that DHS has sought to muzzle certain online viewpoints, which is problematic in terms of the First Amendment.
Ken Cuccinelli was the former deputy secretary for Homeland Security under Trump’s administration. He told Fox News Digital that “DHS has no censorship power.”
He said: “This legal fact does not change by creating a new acronym for the government – MDM”.
A second question concerns the nature of redactions. The agency used an exemption that allows them to redact any information relating to “techniques or procedures for law-enforcement investigations.” This implies that law enforcement could be involved in countering “misinformation”. How are they defining the term “misinformation”?
Alexei Woltornist – a former assistant secretary of the DHS – highlighted the possibility that law-abiding Americans could be targeted “just because they said things the government did not like.”
It is also disturbing that the DHS continued to censor even after the Disinformation Governance Board was disbanded.
These revelations are of great importance. Under the pretext of fighting “misinformation,” the DHS is working to silence social media voices. This is exactly the kind of action that the First Amendment was intended to protect citizens from.
It is likely that more information will be revealed about federal agencies using the position they hold to monitor information shared online. So far, there is no sign that anything will be done about this problem.