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Monday, April 15, 2024

State Department Entity Peddled Censorship Products to Tech Firms, New Report Finds

'The government is not merely funding censorship research. It is acting as a sales rep to market censorship technology to private companies...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USAThe State Department’s “Global Engagement Center” marketed anti-conservative censorship products to private-sector tech firms, according to a new report from The Federalist.

The Federalist’s report draws from the lawsuit the attorneys general for Missouri and Louisiana filed against the Biden administration last October for colluding with social media companies to censor speech.

Federalist senior legal correspondent Margot Cleveland focused on a paragraph in the lawsuit where the GEC’s Samaruddin K. Stewart emailed LinkedIn in February 2020 and stated that he was “tasked with building relationships with technology companies … with interests in countering disinformation.”

Stewart again emailed LinkedIn a month later, stating, “I’ll send information [to LinkedIn representatives] about gaining access to Disinfo Cloud—which is a GEC [i.e. State Department’s Global Engagement Center] funded platform that offers stakeholders an opportunity to discovery companies, technology, and tools that can assist with identifying, understanding, and addressing disinformation.”

Cleveland noted that this portion of the 164-page lawsuit was initially overlooked.

Indeed, the significance of the Global Engagement Center’s marketing to tech companies has since been revealed in the Twitter Files—a trove of internal documents showing the company’s censorship decisions. Twitter owner Elon Musk said in February that the GEC is the “worst offender in U.S. government” when it comes to censorship, while journalist Matt Taibbi further explained the shadowy network’s innerworkings in March.

Cleveland also noted that the GEC apparently worked with infamous FBI Agent Elvis Chan, who was revealed in the Twitter Files to be in constant touch with the social media firm about censorship issues. Chan was recently deposed in the Missouri-Louisiana censorship lawsuit.

Chan reportedly said that the GEC’s Stewart met with various social media companies about “different initiatives.” Those initiatives included various kinds of vendor-made software “that they would pilot to see if they could detect malign foreign influence on social media platforms,” Cleveland wrote in the Federalist.

“Chan further testified that Stewart and GEC ‘would provide webinars’ from these vendors. As Chan explained, ‘[T]he State Department was just providing a venue where different vendors could show off their products,’” Cleveland wrote.

“The presentations were open to the general public,” said Chan, but the GEC ‘would invite all sorts of audiences, to include researchers, employees from State Department counterparts, so typically Ministry of Foreign Affairs.’ The intended audience, according to Chan, was ‘State Department-equivalent personnel, social media companies, and researchers.’”

The GEC’s funding is up for reauthorization in Congress by the end of the year.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has called for reauthorization of the GEC on the grounds that it helps fight Russian and Chinese disinformation.

But Cleveland said her new findings show that the GEC is even more nefarious than what was revealed in the Twitter Files.

“But what Stewart’s emails now reveal is that the government is not merely funding censorship research. It is acting as a sales rep to market censorship technology to private companies,” she wrote.

“The State Department isn’t skirting the First Amendment. It is driving a stake through its heart.”

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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