Do not believe everything you read. Even if it comes from more “respectable” publications. The Intercept had a big story this week that is making the rounds, suggesting that “leaked” documents prove the DHS has been coordinating with tech companies to suppress information. The story has been immediately picked up by the usual suspects, claiming it reveals the “smoking gun” of how the Biden administration was abusing government power to censor them on social media.
The only problem? It shows nothing of the sort.
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.
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.
Let’s dig in. Back in 2018, then President Donald Trump signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act into law, creating the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as a separate agency in the Department of Homeland Security. While there are always reasons to be concerned about government interference in various aspects of life, CISA was pretty uncontroversial (perhaps with the exception of when Trump freaked out and fired the first CISA director, Chris Krebs, for pointing out that the election was safe and there was no evidence of manipulation or foul play).
While CISA has a variety of things under its purview, one thing that it is focused on is general information sharing between the government and private entities. This has actually been really useful for everyone, even though the tech companies have been (quite reasonably!) cautious about how closely they’ll work with the government (because they’ve been burned before). Indeed, as you may recall, one of the big revelations from the Snowden documents was about the PRISM program, which turned out to be oversold by the media reporting on it, but was still problematic in many ways. Since then, the tech companies have been even more careful about working with government, knowing that too much government involvement will eventually come out and get everyone burned.
With that in mind, CISA’s role has been pretty widely respected with almost everyone I’ve spoken to, both in government and at various companies. It provides information regarding actual threats, which has been useful to companies, and they seem to appreciate it. Given their historical distrust of government intrusion and their understanding of the limits of government authority here, the companies have been pretty attuned to any attempt at coercion, and I’ve heard of nothing regarding CISA at all.
That’s why the story seemed like such a big deal when I first read the headline and some of the summaries. But then I read the article… and the supporting documents… and there’s no there there. There’s nothing. There’s… the information sharing that everyone already knew was happening and that has been widely discussed in the past. [Continue reading…]