Tech expert says bombshell report about DHS coordinating with social media platforms is 'absolute garbage'
Smart Phone AFP/File / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

Earlier this week, reporters Ken Klippenstein and Lee Fang published a report at The Intercept claiming that “leaked” documents show the Department of Homeland Security has been coordinating with tech companies to censor content.

"The work, much of which remains unknown to the American public, came into clearer view earlier this year when DHS announced a new 'Disinformation Governance Board': a panel designed to police misinformation (false information spread unintentionally), disinformation (false information spread intentionally), and malinformation (factual information shared, typically out of context, with harmful intent) that allegedly threatens U.S. interests. While the board was widely ridiculed, immediately scaled back, and then shut down within a few months, other initiatives are underway as DHS pivots to monitoring social media now that its original mandate — the war on terror — has been wound down," Klippenstein and Fang write.

But according to Techdirt's Mike Masnick, the report is "bullsh**."

"The article is garbage. It not only misreads things, it is confused about what the documents the reporters have actually say, and presents widely available, widely known things as if they were secret and hidden when they were not," writes Masnick. "The entire article is a complete nothingburger, and is fueling a new round of lies and nonsense from people who find it useful to misrepresent reality. If the Intercept had any credibility at all it would retract the article and examine whatever processes failed in leading to the article getting published."

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In his critique, Masnick looks at the following passage from The Intercept's report: Behind closed doors, and through pressure on private platforms, the U.S. government has used its power to try to shape online discourse. According to meeting minutes and other records appended to a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican who is also running for Senate, discussions have ranged from the scale and scope of government intervention in online discourse to the mechanics of streamlining takedown requests for false or intentionally misleading information.

Masnick, who founded the Silicon Valley think tank known as the Copia Institute, says the “meeting minutes” referred to by The Intercept "are from the already very, very public Misinformation & Disinformation Subcommittee that was part of an effort to counter foreign influence campaigns" -- all information Masnick says is available for viewing on their website.

Speaking to Techdirt, professor and computer scientist Kate Starbird says The Intercept's article tried to make it seem like this was some kind of hidden effort when it was actually a publicly announced meeting with public minutes.

In Masnick's opinion, the actual document is "all kinda reasonable" and does not work to suppress speech, but to share "information to help local election officials respond to it and provide correct information."