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Governor Hobbs’ coordinated social media campaign to censor political opponents – Arizona Daily Independent

Governor Katie Hobbs

More is coming to light about Gov. Katie Hobbs’ coordination with social media companies to censor political opponents.

Emails obtained by Arizona Capitol Oversight reveal that Hobbs has coordinated with social media companies for at least the past three years to control free speech online.

Hours after the emails leaked, Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma (R-LD27) announced a new ad-hoc Oversight, Accountability and Technology Committee to address government censorship. State Rep. Alexander Kolodin (R-LD03) will chair the committee.

The committee will hold its first meeting on September 5 at the State Capitol. In addition to discussing potential legislation to protect against government censorship, the committee will conduct any warranted investigations.

In November 2020, Hobbs used her government email during the work week to call on Twitter to take action against those criticizing her for a 2017 tweet on her personal account that compared Trump voters to Nazis. (Hobbs was Arizona Senate Minority Leader in 2017.) Hobbs sought Twitter’s intervention because those critics cited the tweet as part of their argument that she was too partisan and biased against Trump to administer the 2020 election fairly.

“The alt-right got hold of a 3-year-old tweet on my account and I’ve been sending harassing, abusive and threatening tweets and direct messages for the past two days,” Hobbs said.

The day before Hobbs sent his email, his former communications director, Murphy Hebert, sent an email to Facebook flagging election-related misinformation in an effort to remove it.

In addition to contacting social media companies directly, Hobbs’ team used a favorite middleman among politicians seeking to monitor online speech: the Center for Information Security (CIS). Arizona Daily Independent reported about this relationship last December.

CIS is a non-profit organization funded with millions from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The president and CEO of the CIS, John Gilliganhe previously served as senior intelligence and security advisor for the Air Force, the Department of Energy, and the White House Commission on Cybersecurity under the Obama administration.

Of interest is the advice a National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) official gave Hebert about Hobbs’ desire to eradicate messages questioning the effectiveness of using sharpies to fill out ballots (“Sharpiegate“). The NASS official told Hebert that Twitter could not remove or moderate posts, but CIS could.

“In fact, I would suggest sending [your request] to the disinformation of the CIS[rmation] email instead of Twitter Gov[ernment],” wrote NASS Director of Communications Maria Benson. “Twitter Gov can’t remove or moderate posts, it’s more of a general help inbox.”

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Southwest-focused public affairs officer at the time, Jannelle Watson, promised Hebert that she had limited circulation of posts about the Sharpiegate fiasco by making the Sharpie tag “unbreakable ” and putting warning labels on the content.

Watson previously served as a regional director for the Young Democrats of America and as an advisor to Obama in the White House.

The CIS “misinformation” division referred to refers to its Electoral Infrastructure Information Exchange and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), which acts as an intermediary to coordinate election officials, federal government agencies and social media platforms.

In December 2020, Hobbs’ chief of staff, Allie Bones, used the secretary of state’s email to ask the CIS to act on a tweet from the Arizona Republican Party. CIS replied that it would send the request to CISA, who would then send it to Twitter.

Last August, Bones asked CIS via email to delete a tweet criticizing Hobbs from the Arizona Republican Party. Bones classified his political opponents’ estimation of Hobbs as “failing at his current job [as secretary of state]” as “misinformation”.

In the final weeks of former Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s administration, the Arizona Republican Party requested an investigation into Hobbs for his censorship efforts.

How Arizona Capitol Oversight He noted that some of the emails related to Hobbs’ coordination with social media companies were merely emails confirming reports received and not the reports themselves. This indicates an undiscovered pool of content and conversation moderation requests, which likely exist on an existing secure portal for government officials.

A federal judge has already ruled that any government coordination with the CIS and social media companies to monitor online speech is unconstitutional.

Last Independence Day, the District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction barring the Biden administration from coordinating with social media companies to censor or suppress online speech.

Judge Terry Doughty likened the government’s efforts to control online speech to an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth.”

“Plaintiffs are likely to succeed, on the merits, in establishing that the Government has used its power to silence opposition. Opposition to COVID-19 vaccines; opposition to COVID-19 masking and confinement; opposition to the COVID-19 lab leak theory; opposition to the validity of the 2020 election; opposition to President Biden’s policies; statements that Hunter Biden’s laptop story was true; and opposition to the policies of government officials in power. They were all suppressed. It is quite telling that every example or category of speech suppressed was conservative in nature. This suppression targeting conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech . […] Plaintiffs have presented substantial evidence in support of their claims that they were the victims of a far-reaching and extensive censorship campaign.”


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