Homeland Security attempts to redirect censorship records request to Washington state

Homeland Security said the watchdog's request was not under its purview.

Updated: January 11, 2023 - 3:04pm

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The Department of Homeland Security directed a Freedom of Information Act request about the government's role in censorship to Washington state, which is currently involved in several lawsuits against the legal watchdog group that made the FOIA request.

Protect the Public’s Trust on Wednesday said it asked Homeland Security to provide "'tickets' submitted by DHS to its censorship partners." The tickets reportedly contained social media posts, many of which were conservative, from U.S. citizens that the government wanted to be suppressed or removed.

"After a careful review of your FOIA request, we determined that the information you are seeking is not under the purview of DHS. DHS recommends you submit a request for information regarding EIP tickets to the State of Washington and/or the 'Virality Project,'" Homeland Security said in a letter to the public watchdog. 

The Virality Project is a coalition of groups focused on detecting, analyzing and responding to COVID vaccine misinformation online. Washington state is already involved in three lawsuits filed by Protect the Public’s Trust for allegedly withholding records about a lead censorship official at the University of Washington, Kate Starbird.

"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," Protect the Public’s Trust Director Michael Chamberlain said.