The Department of Homeland Security has claimed in internally circulated memos that it has regulatory or statutory authority to seek out and ask social media companies to censor accounts and individuals it has deemed are spreading misinformation.
The memos, dated as early as February 2022, include pages titled “DHS Authorities in the MDM Space,” shorthand for misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. But the pages are completely blank, redacted by DHS, which relied on exemptions under a Freedom of Information Act request by the libertarian Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
AFPF shared the documents with Newsmax on Friday.
The documents refer to a “Ukraine playbook.”
The memos ostensibly were generated prior to last year’s launch of the DHS’ Disinformation Governance Board, which was disbanded only weeks after its revelation due to publicity of the office.
However, the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana subsequently filed suit against the Biden administration, winning a July 4 court order prohibiting it from further contact with social media companies. The order by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty claimed the DHS “seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’”
The Supreme Court stayed the order until Friday, when it was expected to rule further.
AFPF’s Director of Investigations Kevin Schmidt said that while the Disinformation Governance Board may have been disbanded, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified to the Senate Homeland Security in May 2022 that the office was supposed to have developed “guidelines” and “guardrails” so as to “not infringe on people’s free speech rights.”
Since the board has been disbanded, and the DHS has responded to the FOIA request with redacted critical information, it is unclear what those guidelines and guardrails are or under what authority the DHS is operating.
“The MDM effort within DHS is across its components,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said AFPF, which initially filed requests for information regarding the board 14 months ago, is pursing the full release of the heavily redacted documents, provided to the organization last week.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s core mission is spelled out in our name: to protect homeland security,” a statement from DHS said in response to Newsmax’s inquiry into AFPF’s claims. “We have worked for over a decade to address disinformation that poses a threat to that security.
“This critical work continues today across several DHS components, consistent with the law, and in a manner that is transparent and upholds the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of the American people.”
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