The Department of Homeland Security’s controversial social media censorship effort during the 2020 election was propped up by a partisan billionaire.
Newly obtained documents, acquired through a public records request, confirm that Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay, financed a specialized portal maintained by the Center for Internet Security (CIS). This portal was used to facilitate the swift removal of predominantly conservative messages on Twitter and Facebook during the previous presidential election.
Omidyar, previously identified as one of the largest donors to campaign groups supporting Joe Biden’s presidential bid, donated $45 million to the “Sixteen Thirty Fund” in 2020. This dark money group mobilized Democratic voters and financed pro-Biden Super PACs. However, Omidyar’s direct involvement in the DHS partnership, which is now facing increased scrutiny, remained undisclosed until now.
The funding provided by Omidyar to CIS was used to establish a Misinformation Reporting Portal (MiRP). A team from CIS continuously monitored this portal 24/7 from September 28 to November 6, 2020, as revealed in a post-election report, “Election Infrastructure Misinformation Reporting.” The Democracy Fund, Omidyar’s foundation, supported the creation of the MiRP through a direct grant, according to the report.
The misinformation reporting portal served to rapidly identify and remove instances of alleged misinformation. CIS’s report acknowledged that the flagged content ranged from “intentional misinformation to honest mistakes.” Of the content reported by CIS, 61% “resulted in positive action,” which the group defined as content takedowns or labeling.
This MiRP system was used by a coalition of liberal-leaning research groups and overseen by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), a sub-agency of the DHS that has led the government’s push to censor social media. Despite government backing for the project, the effort was partisan – the Democratic National Committee was part of the consortium, but not the Republican National Committee, indicating a partisan bias.
“In addition to sharing all reports with CISA, some reports were shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the CIS report noted. The effort focused on “election narratives” deemed conspiratorial or inaccurate.
Tax records appear to confirm the Omidyar funding. The Democracy Fund’s 990 disclosure shows that it donated $130,000 to CIS in 2020. The grant, however, is listed as support for “election security best practices,” a vague description that belied the true function of the MiRP portal….