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Documents Show DHS Agency “Real-Time Narrative Tracking” of Social Media Posts in 2020

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Judicial Watch has come forward with newly acquired evidence of an intriguing alliance during the US 2020 election. The investigative body was able to obtain, via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit, a series of records demonstrating a comprehensive synergy between the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (CISA) and a controversial entity, the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP).

These files reveal a concerted effort to execute “real-time narrative tracking” on principal social media networks during the critical days leading up to the 2020 election. Interestingly, these records illustrate instances of social media post “takedowns” and an intentional avoidance of creating public records that would be subject to the FOIA process.

These records also allow us a peek into the operations of EIP. Originally known as the Election Misinformation Partnership, it invested in monitoring online election discourse round the clock, especially prioritizing “disinformation that is going viral.”

A lawsuit launched under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gave Judicial Watch access to the records. The lawsuit was deemed necessary in response to a lack of transparency from the DHS, which did not respond to a formal request submitted by Judicial Watch on October 5, 2022.

This data was part of an extensive request by Judicial Watch that included all communication records between CISA and EIP, minute details of a meeting between DHS officials and EIP members on July 9, 2020, and all records of communication between CISA and Stanford University’s Internet Observatory or the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, specifically regarding the Election Integrity Partnership, the 2020 US election, online misinformation and disinformation, or various social media platforms.

The Election Integrity Partnership, established right before the Presidential elections in July 2020, was composed of four major entities: Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, and social media analytics firm Graphika.

This partnership provided a valuable service to federal bodies, such as Homeland’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), enabling them to file tickets for flagging or censoring specific social media posts and online stories. It also extended similar privileges to three liberal organizations – the Democratic National Committee, Common Cause, and the NAACP – along with the Homeland-funded Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

In 2023, a report by the Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government revealed the drastic evolution of CISA. Established in 2018 to protect critical infrastructure from cyber threats, it had emerged by 2020 as the central conduit for domestic surveillance and censorship of social media by the federal government. CISA’s focus shifted to reporting supposed disinformation on social media. By the following year, they had officially formed a team specializing in misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. As criticism intensified in 2022 and 2023, CISA sought to obscure its activities, ostensibly serving a purely “informational” role despite judicious allegations of unconstitutional conduct.

“These records show the lengths to which a ‘Homeland Security’ Deep State agency went in its effort to censor and suppress Americans during and after the 2020 election,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “That it took a federal lawsuit to extract these disturbing records should raise additional worries about what else this Biden administration is up to.”

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