The clown show in the House GOP continues as Jim Jordan's "weaponization of the federal government" subcommittee is weaponizing the federal government to go after colleges and universities for the crime of...working with the Biden administration.
House Republicans have sent letters to at least three universities and a think tank requesting a broad range of documents related to what it says are the institutions' contributions to the Biden administration’s “censorship regime.”
The letters are the latest effort by a House subcommittee set up in January to investigate how the federal government, working with social media companies, has allegedly been “weaponized” to silence conservative and right-wing voices. So far, the committee’s investigations have amplified a variety of dubious, outright false and highly misleading Republican grievances with law enforcement, many of them espoused by former President Donald Trump. Committee members have cited supposed abuses that include the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, its investigations of Jan. 6 rioters and the Biden administration’s purported use of executive powers to shut down conservative viewpoints on social media.
Now, universities and their researchers are coming under the spotlight of the committee, which the Republicans have labeled the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The letters, signed by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who is chair of both the House Judiciary Committee and the subcommittee, were sent in early March.
They cover an investigation into how “certain third parties, including organizations like yours, may have played a role in this censorship regime by advising on so-called ‘misinformation,’” according to a copy of one of the letters obtained by ProPublica.
The committee requested documents and information dating back to January 2015 between any “employee, contractor, or agent of your organization” and the federal government or social media organizations pertaining to the moderation of social media content. ProPublica confirmed the requests went to Stanford University, the University of Washington, Clemson University and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
The letters have prompted a wave of alarm among those in the field that the congressional inquiry itself, no matter what it finds, will lead universities to pull back on this research just as the 2024 election gets underway. “Recent efforts definitely have a chilling effect on the community of experts across academia, civil society and government built up to understand broader online harms like harassment, foreign influence and — yes — disinformation,” Graham Brookie, who leads studies in this area at the Atlantic Council, told ProPublica.
“The ‘weaponization’ committee is being weaponized against us,” another researcher told ProPublica. Like half a dozen others interviewed for this story, this person asked not to be identified because of the ongoing congressional probe.
Democrats have called the committee a modern-day House Un-American Activities Committee, akin to the congressional committee that pursued alleged communists during the McCarthy era.
Since Rep. Jordan took over the gavel of the judiciary committee in January, he has issued more than 80 subpoenas and requests for documents. Recipients have included the CEOs of social media companies, intelligence officials who signed on to a statement about Hunter Biden’s laptop during the 2020 campaign and members of the National School Boards Association who asked the Justice Department to investigate threats of violence against school board officials. Jordan himself refused a subpoena to testify before the Democratic-led House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, prompting that committee to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee.
Jordan’s missives were sent a day after a committee hearing on the “Twitter files,” leaked internal communications from the company that purported to show how right-wing accounts were sidelined and silenced. In written testimony, a panelist accused a broad swath of organizations and individuals of being members of the “Censorship Industrial Complex,” including, he implied, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, CIA, Department of Defense and universities. The witness wrote disinformation researchers, working with the government, are “creating blacklists of disfavored people and then pressuring, cajoling, and demanding that social media platforms censor, deamplify, and even ban the people on these blacklists.”
A New York University study concluded in 2021 that social media had not silenced those on the right. “The claim of anti-conservative animus” by social media companies, the study said, “is itself a form of disinformation: a falsehood with no reliable evidence to support it."
A spokesperson for Rep. Jordan did not respond to requests for comment.
So the McCarthyism meatheads are at it again, this time making it clear they will target universities and colleges that participate in "unapproved" research that might be communism in disguise, or something.
Everything old is new again.
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