Government is good at outsourcing...responsibility

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Private sector companies have been outsourcing for decades, and the federal government occasionally does so.

Especially when they want to hide the ball. If there is responsibility for wrongdoing, no bureaucrat wants to be the one to accept it. That’s why huge swathes of intelligence gathering and analysis is quietly outsourced to private companies that are essentially accountable to nobody. They can often do shady things that nobody within the federal government wants to take responsibility for.


The Department of Homeland Security is a master at this, and the fine folks at the watchdog group Protect the Public Trust have experienced that firsthand.

They’ve been trying to get information about requests made by the government for censoring social media posts, and they have been getting the runaround. DHS works with “partners” around the country who make requests for suppressing content on behalf of the feds. DHS doesn’t make the requests directly, but outsources this responsibility to their partners. In this particular case the partner is the State of Washington.

Protect the Public Trust has been trying to get access to the specifics of the requests, and the State of Washington has been fighting them tooth and nail, resulting in 3 lawsuits. Looking for a way to get access to the requests, Protect the Public Trust also made a FOIA request to Homeland Security for the information, as they originated the process.

No dice. DHS is playing “hide the ball” with the organization, referring them back to the State of Washington.

So much for “Freedom of Information.” PPT is unhappy, as you can imagine. You should be too, since this is about censoring Americans at the behest of the government, which is pretty much the definition of a violation of the 1st Amendment.


DHS’s diversionary response comes on the heels of three lawsuits PPT has filed against the State of Washington for withholding records related to Kate Starbird, a top censorship official at the University of Washington. The requests at the center of the lawsuits seek to understand what role Dr. Starbird played in suppressing the free speech of law-abiding Americans discussing the 2020 and 2022 elections, COVID-19 policies, and the Biden Administration’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal.

Beyond providing the funding source for the burgeoning ‘disinformation’ industry, recent revelations by the Twitter Files and others appear to show a much deeper involvement by federal officials than simply shelling out taxpayer funds. DHS officials may have submitted requests to censor social media posts by Americans that did not appear to violate any laws. As federal partners submitted “tickets” targeting Americans’ social media posts on a range of hot button political topics for censorship, these entities also subsequently highlighted their work and ‘successes’ in summary reports that were apparently used to obtain additional funding. These tickets are the records that were sought by PPT and seemingly deflected by DHS.

“It is unusual for a federal agency to respond to a proper FOIA request with a referral to state and non-governmental entities acting as agents on its behalf,” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust stated. “Unfortunately, it does seem consistent with the growing perspective among the American public that the government is vigorously shielding any efforts at exposing the rapidly expanding censorship industry that is funded and outsourced by the federal government. Once these tickets are released, we expect even more insight into how the agency charged with protecting the homeland is instead ensuring only government-approved messages make their way into people’s social media feeds.”


This has been a theme over the past few years. Government officials are actively working to suppress the free speech of American citizens, using private companies as intermediaries and agents in order to do so.

Then they claim it isn’t them who are doing it, but private actors who are perfectly free to not publish what they disapprove of. This is simply a runaround.

Censorship has always been about requiring private companies to refrain from publishing disfavored speech. It’s not like the government owns all the means of communication, so all censorship would be through private companies and individuals. This is no different.

As for the censorship being “voluntary?” Please. All during the period when the requests were being made officials, elected and not, were threatening the social media companies with dismemberment, increased regulation, and all manner of means to cripple their businesses.

“Nice company you have there. Shame if something were to happen to it.” These are the tactics of the Mafia, who claim that protection payments are a form of insurance. Here, agreeing to censorship requests serves the same function. Pay up, or else.

Yesterday I asked “Where are the Facebook Files?” I should also have asked, where are the government files regarding censorship?


Protect the Public Trust is looking for those. Good.

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