June 13, 2024 – The Stanford Internet Observatory shuts down their censorship operation

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Alex Stamos (left); Stanford President Richard Saller (center); Renée DiResta (r) (Credit: Public/Substack)

Over the last 18 months, Public has extensively documented the mass censorship effort led by the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) for the United States government. Accounts vary, but either the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asked SIO to lead the effort or SIO’s ostensible leader, Alex Stamos, proposed the idea.

The brains of the SIO operation was Renée DiResta, an ostensibly “former” CIA employee. Senate Democrats, the New York Times, and other news media close to the Intelligence Community (IC) heavily promoted DiResta starting in 2018, when she spread disinformation exaggerating the influence of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. In 2020 and 2021, DiResta and SIO led a DHS effort that successfully pressured social media platforms to censor disfavored views of Covid and interfere in the 2020 elections.

Now, in a major victory for free speech advocates, SIO has decided not to renew its contracts with DiResta and Stamos, who have both left the organization. A blog called “Platformer,” which is sympathetic to SIO’s censorship efforts, reported yesterday that “the lab will not conduct research into the 2024 election or other elections in the future.”

Stanford cut funding from a donor named Frank McCourt to SIO. “While SIO still had other sources of funding,” reports Platformer, the McCourt funding decision was seen by some at SIO as a clear signal that Stanford had soured on its commitment to their work.” The announcement came just two days after DiResta published a book that spreads disinformation about her critics, including me. (Read more: Public/Substack, 6/14/2024)  (Archive)