Unnerving federal scheme spends millions of dollars on propaganda

(Photo by Joe Kovacs)
(Photo by Joe Kovacs)

A new congressional report released by the House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government has revealed scheming by Washington bureaucrats to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on propaganda driven by artificial intelligence that would censor information available to Americans.

“The purpose of these taxpayer-funded projects is to develop AI-powered censorship and propaganda tools that can be used by governments and Big Tech to shape public opinion by restricting certain viewpoints or promoting others,” the committees said in a report.

“The report is “The Weaponization of the National Science Foundation: How NSF is Funding the Development of Automated Tools to Censor Online Speech ‘At Scale’ and Trying to Cover Up its Actions.”

It details how the tax-funded NSF handed out millions of dollars to pay for “artificial intelligence (AI)-powered censorship and propaganda tools.”

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Then, the report said, the NSF launched “repeated efforts to cover up and avoid political and media scrutiny.”

“In the name of combatting alleged misinformation regarding COVID-19 and the 2020 election, NSF has been issuing multi-million-dollar grants to university and non-profit research teams,” the congressional team said.

“Non-public documents obtained by the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government demonstrate that these federal bureaucrats, ‘disinformation’ researchers, and non-profit groups understood that their actions—’content moderation’ and combatting so-called misinformation—amounted to ‘censorship,” Congress reported. “And yet, NSF forged ahead, supporting new technologies that would essentially enable the censorship of online speech ‘at scale.'”

Congress reports that NSF tracked “any public criticism” of its work funding “misinformation projects,” targeting legal scholars as well as journalists.

“NSF went so far as to develop a media strategy that considered blacklisting certain American media outlets because they were scrutinizing NSF’s funding of censorship and propaganda tools,” Congress reported.

The report charges that the funding of censorship schemes that would restrict Americans’ access to valuable, and possibly life-saving, information was only half of the agenda.

“The committee and the select subcommittee have also obtained, via document requests and subpoenas, nonpublic emails and other documents that reveal a years-long, intentional effort by NSF to hide its role in funding these censorship and propaganda tools from media and political scrutiny,” the report continued.

“From legal scholars, such as Jonathan Turley, to conservative journalists, NSF tracked public criticisms of its work in funding these projects. NSF went so far as to develop a media strategy that considered blacklisting certain American media outlets because they were scrutinizing NSF’s funding of censorship and propaganda tools.”

The report said the campaign was in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“The First Amendment prohibits the government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech.’ Thus, ‘any law or government policy that reduces that freedom on the [social media] platforms . . . violates the First Amendment.’ To inform potential legislation, the committee and select subcommittee have been investigating the executive branch’s collusion with third-party intermediaries, including universities, non-profits, and businesses, to censor protected speech on social media,” the report said.

The report said, “The committee and subcommittee have uncovered serious violations of the First Amendment throughout the executive branch.”

Those items include “the Biden White House directly coercing large social media companies, such as Facebook, to censor true information, memes, and satire, eventually leading Facebook to change its content moderation policies” and “Stanford’s Election Integrity Partnership (EIP)—created at the request of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)—working with the federal government to flag thousands of links and submit recommendations directly to large social media platforms to censor Americans’ online speech in the lead-up to the 2020 U.S. election.”

The report explained the danger that the Biden administration’s censorship plans contain.

“As egregious as these violations of the First Amendment are, each still faced the same limitation: the censors were human. Senior Biden White House officials had to spend time personally berating the social media companies into changing their content moderation policies. Social media executives expended considerable time and effort responding to the White House’s threats and evaluating the flagged content. Stanford had nearly a hundred people working for the EIP in shifts flagging thousands of posts, which was only a fraction of the number of election-related posts made in the fall of 2020. But what happens if the censorship is automated and the censors are machines? There is no need for shifts or huge teams of people to identify and flag problematic online speech. AI-driven tools can monitor online speech at a scale that would far outmatch even the largest team of ‘disinformation’ bureaucrats and researchers.

“This interim report reveals how NSF is using American taxpayer dollars to fund the tools that could usher in an even greater threat to online speech than the original efforts to censor speech on social media,” Congress wrote. “The NSF-funded projects threaten to help create a censorship regime that could significantly impede the fundamental First Amendment rights of millions of Americans, and potentially do so in a manner that is instantaneous and largely invisible to its victims.”

The report also noted the NSF still has refused to adequately comply with requests for relevant documents on the issue.

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