Federalizing Facebook to Protect Us From the Russians


Is a Bipartisan Bill About to Create a Social Media Department of Homeland Security?

Senator James Lankford, R-Oklahoma will be introducing a bill in the US Senate sometime during the Christmas week coming up, ostensibly to help identify and react to cyber security threats, as well as help coordinate the identification and reaction among state and federal agencies. But wait, there’s more, far more…

The bill is being co-sponsored by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, and Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris. The author of the bill, Lankford, is considered a ‘rising star’ in the Republican Party. The Democrat co-signers, Klobuchar and Harris, are both considered rising stars in their party. I think these facts are worth noting when considering the prospects of this bill being taken seriously, and the prospects of this bill’s eventual passage.

You don’t stick your rising stars on a showpiece bit of legislation that is intended to go nowhere.

The bill is ostensibly designed to create more effective lines of communication between the Department of Homeland Security, the Intelligence Community at the Federal level, as well as State Election officials. The bill’s goal is to prevent further foreign interference in US Elections, and to help states better defend against cyber attacks.

The Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002, in response to the 9/11 attack.

From the department’s own documents, here, in part, is why this department was created:

The Department of Homeland Security would make Americans safer because our nation would have:

One department whose primary mission is to protect the American homeland;

One department to secure our borders, transportation sector, ports, and critical infrastructure;

One department to synthesize and analyze homeland security intelligence from multiple sources;

One department to coordinate communications with state and local governments, private industry, and the American people about threats and preparedness;

One department to coordinate our efforts to protect the American people against bioterrorism and other weapons of mass destruction…

I would note these key points (and they bear repeating):

One department to synthesize and analyze homeland security intelligence from multiple sources;

One department to coordinate communications with state and local governments, private industry, and the American people about threats and preparedness;

So the question is this, then: Why do you need to create yet another entity to ostensibly do what the Department of Homeland Security was originally intended to do?

According to testimony about the alleged Russian hacking of the 2016 election, apparently that communications coordination is still not happening, 15 years after this now-powerful department, with an annual budget currently at about $40 billion a year, was created.

Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that conducted the bizarre Social Media Witch Hunt Trials (as I’ve come to call them), said, “It’s unacceptable that it took almost a year after the election to notify states that their elections systems were targeted, but I’m relieved that DHS has acted upon our numerous requests and is finally informing the top elections officials in all 21 affected states that Russian hackers tried to breach their systems in the run up to the 2016 election.”

In other words, if his allegations are even true that Russia actually did attempt to hack the electoral system of these 21 states (let’s just assume it’s true, because government said it was true), then that means the Department of Homeland Security is a failure, so let’s create another department designed to do what this department was designed to do because THIS TIME we can get it right.

In an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation, Lankford said about the bill he plans on introducing, “Yeah, there’s no doubt the Russians not only engaged in our past election but they’re still trying to find ways to be able to do that. We’ve noted several ways publicly in the last couple of months that they’re still engaging in social media, trying to stir up the United States controversies. I compare it to if you’ve got two kids in a playground that are in a fight, there’s always somebody on the edge of the playground screaming, ‘Fight, fight, fight,’ trying to bring a bigger crowd to it.”

He continued, “That’s what the Russians are really trying to do. They’re not starting it. They’re just trying to add fuel to the flame any time. The key thing that I think needs to be done right now is a bill that’s actually a bipartisan bill I’m working on to be able to finalize hopefully this week to be able to deal with election security, helping states protect their own election security.”

He concluded, “The F.B.I. was much too slow and Homeland Security were much too slow in notifying our states the last time that the Russians were trying to probe election systems. We’ve got to be able to do that faster. We’ve got to help states have a good, reliable, auditable election system that they can actually do themselves and that the federal government and that all entities from those states can trust those election results.”

Note in this statement, that Lankford was quick to emphasize the use of social media by Russian hackers in manipulating elections. Note also that this bill came as a result of the Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing that was almost entirely focused on Social Media and its “responsibility” to assure the “public” that these platforms were not being used by foreign actors to manipulate the American Democratic process.

Note also that he intends to create a bill that will offer communications aid between multiple Federal and State Agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (even though that was actually THE PRIMARY reason Bush and the bipartisan supporters used to justify the creation of a whole new intelligence department). That type of coordination will have to be handled by an  entity outside of the existing departments, including the DHS.

It is for these reasons I have little doubt that this bill will contain a lot of language that will lay the groundwork for the eventual creation of a Social Media Homeland Security Department. Who knows, perhaps they will go straight for the end goal in this first go-round?

I’m betting they won’t. I’m betting they’ll first create some sort of exploratory committee that will end with a recommendation of the creation of a Social Media Homeland Security Department, a recommendation that will be pre-determined before the committee ever collects a scrap of data.

But, I’m sure, like the FBI, like the IRS, like the Department of Homeland Security, this department would never be used for political purposes, and would never be used to silence dissent on social media, characterizing that dissent as simply being a part of another Russian plot to destroy the democratic process.

An unintended consequence of this action might very well be the continued rise of underground web alternative “social media” networking by activists who will feel the pressure, even more, to avoid the out-in-the-light-of-the-day (and thus integrally embedded with the state) social media.

In the same way that the Catholic Church’s increasing crackdown on people attempting to avoid paying tithes and taxes to the church led more people to find more creative ways to hide their wealth from authorities, so too will, I believe, efforts by the state to increasingly control the narrative algorithms on social media lead to the exponential growth of audiences that will avoid the mainstream platforms altogether.

I will be tracking this bill closely as soon as they put words to paper. I suspect the words will come as late as possible before a vote takes place, but the author and the sponsors have expressed an interest in getting this bill passed before the 2018 midterm election break.

Stay tuned, I know I will.

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Contributed by Paul Gordon of iState TV.

Paul Gordon is the editor of Istate.tv and co-host of numerous podcasts including VisPrivus, Lulzilla and Full Auto. He is also the publisher of a local digital newspaper, the Tioga Freedomist