Dr. Kate Starbird, a researcher who claims social media platforms have a “moral and ethical obligation” to suppress content supporting “right-wing populism,” is leading the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to counter “misinformation and disinformation,” internal documents reveal.

Starbird also worked with the Election Integrity Partnership, which played a key role in pushing social media platforms to censor conservative users and posts – even at the request of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) – during the 2020 election cycle.

The uncovering of Starbird’s aversion to right-wing populism and affiliation with left-leaning groups follows a bombshell report from The Intercept detailing the comprehensive operations carried out by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), an operational component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to censor Americans on a wide variety of topics.

Additional documents uncovered by reveal the lead of CISA’s “Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Misinformation & Disinformation” subcommittee, which is responsible for spearheading most of the agency’s censorship work.

Starbird, the leader of the seven-person team which includes Twitter’s former “Chief Censor,” is a University of Washington Professor who co-founded the school’s Center for an Informed Public.

Starbird’s Center for an Informed Public is a leading member of the Election Integrity Partnership, a consortium that coordinated closely with the federal government and Democrats to help social media platforms censor stories during the 2020 election. She has repeatedly dismissed claims that the 2020 election was plagued with fraud.

The Election Integrity Partnership has come under scrutiny for assembling a system that allowed state actors including the DHS and State Department to flag news stories, subsequently allowing social media platforms to either censor or attach prominent warning labels to the specified stories.

Among the other groups filing reports through the system were the Democratic National Committee as well as left-wing groups such as Common Cause and the NAACP.

As a result, news outlets targeted by the Election Integrity Partnership included conservative sources such as Breitbart News, Fox News, the New York Post, and the Epoch Times, as well as the social media profiles of prominent conservatives Charlie Kirk, Mark Levin, James O’Keefe, Sean Hannity, and more.

Posts from President Donald Trump were also frequently flagged by the group, in addition to his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

Starbird has also appeared to call for broader efforts to censor “misinformation and disinformation” as part of a campaign to suppress the spread of right-wing populism.

During an April 2021 interview with Alexander Heffner on “The Open Mind,” Starbird was asked about how companies including Twitter and Facebook should navigate political advertisements following the events of January 6th.

In response, Starbird suggested that social media platforms have a “moral and ethical obligation” to suppress content leading to “right-wing populism”:

“We can look at a lot of the decisions that have been made by a platform like Facebook over the last four to six years and say, okay, maybe you’re within the legal, you know, your legal obligations, but certainly your moral and ethical obligations are not necessarily being met by some of the actions that you’re taking. […] It’s not just the fact that they’re monopolizing, it’s the fact that they, I mean, they have this immense amount of power on a global scale in terms of shaping discourse and seems to be, we have pretty good evidence that there’s some relationship to the, to, to this platform and the rise of sort of right-wing populism and some radicalization and authoritarianism in different kinds of places.”

Starbird has tweeted similar sentiments, linking the spread of disinformation to the spread of right-wing populism.

“We are all vulnerable to disinfo. However, if we look globally at this particular moment, disinformation campaigns (no matter who they target or what particular narrative they push) are functioning to lift and support right-wing populism (& authoritarian power) around the world,” she tweeted in August 2019.

“These two-way grievance feedback loops seem to lead to some very dark places. In addition to powering the influencers dynamics in our new media spaces, they seem to be powering (or at least supporting) the rise of populism around the world,” she tweeted in May.

When asked about how to “deradicalize” Americans, Starbird insisted “I really think we’re going to have to look further, more broadly in society in terms of how and how we might go about de-radicalization or just like bringing people back together” during the interview.


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