California Officials Pressured Big Tech to Censor Social Media Election Posts

- JUDICIAL WATCH - Apr 30, 2021 - Tom Fiton -


We now have chilling details of California state officials and Big Tech executives conspiring to uproot the First Amendment and influence the 2020 election. And, key targets were Judicial Watch and me.


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The proof is in 540 pages and a supplemental four pages of documents we received from the office of the Secretary of State of California revealing how state officials pressured social media companies (Twitter, Facebook, Google (YouTube)) to censor posts about the 2020 election. Included in these documents were “misinformation briefings” emails that were compiled by communications firm SKDK, which lists Biden for President as their top client of 2020. The documents show how the state agency successfully pressured YouTube to censor my Judicial Watch video concerning the vote by mail and a Judicial Watch lawsuit settlement about California voter roll clean up. We received the records in response to our California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests to the Office of the California Secretary of State for records related to the Office of Election Cybersecurity’s database of social media posts; communications with social media companies; and other social media related records regarding the 2020 elections. We filed the requests after a December 2020 report surfaced that the state agency was surveilling, tracking, and seeking to censor the speech of Americans:

The Office of Election Cybersecurity in the California Secretary of State’s office monitored and tracked social media posts, decided if they were misinformation, stored the posts in an internal database coded by threat level, and on 31 different occasions requested posts be removed. In 24 cases, the social media companies agreed and either took down the posts or flagged them as misinformation, according to Jenna Dresner, senior public information officer for the Office of Election Cybersecurity.

“We don’t take down posts, that is not our role to play,” Dresner said. “We alert potential sources of misinformation to the social media companies and we let them make that call based on community standards they created.”

On September 24, 2020, a California Secretary of State chart lists a video I did and falsely alleges:

Head of conservative group Judicial Watch Hosts video alleging Democrats benefit from incorrect voter rolls and ballot collection.

The Secretary of State’s office details its communication with YouTube: “We wanted to flag this YouTube video because it misleads community members about elections or other civic processes and misrepresents the safety and security of mail-in ballots.” The chart quotes me describing Judicial Watch’s statement about its federal lawsuit settlement with Los Angeles County that will require it to clean up voter rolls and how a Michigan court “changed the rules” on ballot deadlines and ballot harvesting. (The controversial decision was overturned in October 2020.) The document shows that California state officials contacted YouTube directly to remove the video on September 24, 2020, and that YouTube seemed to respond by deleting the video on September 27, 2020. On September 11, 2020, outside consultant Zeke Sandoval, of the SKDK communications firm, provides the Secretary of State’s Office a “Misinformation Daily Briefing,” which again targets me:

Trump tweeted, “The big Unsolicited Ballot States should give it up NOW, before it is too late, and ask people to go to the Polling Booths and, like always before, VOTE. Otherwise, MAYHEM!!! Solicited Ballots (absentee) are OK,” and Twitter was quick to fact check and shared a link with info about how voting by mail is safe and secure. Viral reply on Twitter from Tom Fitton asserting, “Mailing 51 million ballots to those who haven’t asked for increases risk of voter fraud and voter intimidation!”

A 30-page “Misinformation Tracking Sheet” lists social media posts that the office disagrees with and has asked social media companies to remove. In an internal email on January 12, 2021, Deputy Secretary of State and Chief Communications Officer Paula Valle emails Chief Counsel Steve Reyes and Jenna Dresner in the Office of Cybersecurity, as well as Press Secretary Sam Mahood stating that she is uncomfortable with CalMatters reporter Fred Brewster’s questions about the office’s tracking and censoring efforts:

Hi Steve – Please see below – the reporter at Cal Matters who PRA’d us is doing a follow-up story. We asked him to send us his questions. I am not necessarily comfortable with his line of questions and the additional doors that this will open. I want to get your feedback I would simply like to give him a statement about what our goal is and leave it at that. Thoughts?

Brewster’s questions, which include concerns from citizens who were targeted by the “Misinformation Tracker,” were sent on January 12, 2021:

I reached out to the users on page 7 and page 21 of the Misinformation Tracker request I received. Both individuals wanted to know how their posts ended up being labeled misinformation and how, given their relatively small following, they came to the attention of the Office of Election Cybersecurity?

Another user named “DC O’Bryan” had his post taken down (page 5 of the Misinformation Tracker). In an email, you highlight a report sent to the state that says, “I don’t know if this is hot air meant to provoke. If it is, a call from an official might get the point across that you don’t joke about election fraud.” Was O’Bryan called to confirm that his post was a joke?

How does the Office of Election Cybersecurity differentiate between parody and satire and misinformation?

Did CISA, Facebook, or any other partners provide guidance on how to spot and define misinformation? If someone has their posts in the Misinformation Tracker, are there plans to contact those individuals and is there a way for them to petition the state to delete them?

The Secretary of State’s Office emails Facebook and Twitter on April 25, 2019, with requests from the Office to remove tweets and posts for what they have labeled “misinformation.” The office emails Facebook, attempting to set up a call to discuss removing future posts. This 15-minute call is with “new Facebook contact for social media reporting: Javier Hernandez, Politics & Government Outreach” in order to discuss how the office will report posts to Facebook. In the email, Facebook outlines its goals to directly work with “electoral authorities in every state” so that they can “report instances of voter suppression on Facebook directly to our team, so [Facebook] can look at them quickly and remove them from the site.” On December 31, 2019, after the Secretary of State’s office reports a tweet to Support@Twitter.com, Kevin Kane, a Twitter representative, replies and offers his direct contact for the Office’s future needs in removing posts. In a September 21, 2020, email chain with the subject line “elections issue,” Jenna Dresner in the Secretary of State’s Office of Cybersecurity writes to “Cristina and team” at Facebook at 11:43 a.m.: “We want to flag this Instagram post.” The reply comes from Facebook Community Operations: “Thank you for your report. We have reviewed the … content and can confirm that the content has been removed …” At 12:53 pm. Dresner writes to Press Secretary Sam Mahood, Social Media Coordinator Akilah Jones and others, “Post from this morning was removed (and fast!) Akilah we can update tracker.” In an October 28, 2020, email, Jones writes to Flores at Facebook and CCs Dresner that a post, which was from a user named @Screenplaywale, “voters are being asked to gerrymander and voter suppress their ‘trump supporting father’s ballots.’” In an email chain on September 14, 2020, titled “Election Issue” the office internally complains about how long it takes Facebook to remove a post and how to speed up this process. Mahood writes to Dresner: “It looks like it took Facebook 2 weeks to respond to Chris. This is way too long, we should raise to FB and make sure we know best method to report posts.” Dresner responds: “Sure – I’m 98% sure this is the one you chased with an email directly to our FB contacts which resulted in it taken down that day. I can confirm that process works for the future?” On August 22, 2019, Maria Benson, director of communications for the National Association of Secretaries of State emails the communications directors for Secretaries of State offices that Twitter confirmed that they streamlined their process for government officials to report “misinformation:” Great news—Twitter is now on-boarding states into their mis/disinformation partner support portal! Once on-boarded, you will be able to directly report mis/disinformation instead of having to submit it to me first….” [Emphasis in original] Benson also gives contact information for Facebook and Google complaints, and says: “If any of the items you reported do not get prompt attention, please let me know and I can also reach out the companies.” On September 24, 2019, the California Secretary of State’s office confirms that it plans to participate in Facebook’s “misinformation” training which is a review from Facebook on “monitoring guidelines for reporting misinformation” and teaches participants how to use the direct reporting channel Facebook opened for them. On October 1, 2020, Benson forwards information from Twitter about their training to directly remove posts they label as misinformation to the Secretary of State’s office. This is described by Twitter as: “training on creative and effective content strategies on Twitter in advance of the U.S. Election,” as well as “onboarding state and local election officials onto Twitter’s Partner Support Portal.” This portal is described as, “a dedicated way for critical stakeholders – like you – to flag concerns directly to Twitter.” These documents detail a conspiracy against the First Amendment rights of Americans by the California Secretary of State, the Biden campaign operation, and Big Tech. These documents blow up the big lie that Big Tech censorship is ‘private’ – as the documents show collusion between a whole group of government officials in multiple states to suppress speech about election controversies. Judicial Watch in Court to Stop a Maryland County from Giving Cash to Illegal Aliens On May 5, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hear our lawsuit (Bauer, et al. v. Elrich, et al. (No. 20-1707)) challenging the legality of the Montgomery County, Maryland, program that provides cash payments to illegal aliens. We argue on behalf of Montgomery County taxpayers Sharon Bauer and Richard Jurgena that the county’s program providing $10 million in cash benefits to illegal aliens violates federal law and irreparably harms county taxpayers. The Monday hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. ET and can be accessed here: https://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/cal/internetcalmay032021ric.pdf This hearing arises from our complaint (Bauer et al. v. Elrich et al. (No. 482061V)) filed on May 8, 2020, in Montgomery County Circuit Court, which Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Raymond Crowel, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, subsequently removed to federal court. The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin Elrich and Crowel from expending taxpayer money on the cash-benefits program known as the “Emergency Assistance Relief Payment Program” (EARP). Under federal law, certain categories of aliens, including illegal aliens, are ineligible for state or local public benefits. Such benefits include direct, cash payments. If a state chooses to provide such benefits to illegal aliens, it must enact a state law affirmatively providing for such eligibility. On May 29, 2020, the District Court ruled the program likely violates federal law and irreparably harms county taxpayers. The court ordered the county to hold back 25% of any unspent funds until the court could fully consider the merits of our taxpayer lawsuit. Later, the District Court dismissed the case, concluding it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in the appeal we brought, in which the agency agrees the policy is illegal but suggests state taxpayers have no right to sue state officials to stop them from using taxpayer funds to violate federal law. We explain in our appeal: “The issues before this Court concern what cases federal courts may hear, whether state causes of action may rely on violations of federal law, and whether county officials acted illegally.” Also, pointing to 8 U.S. Code § 1621:

In short, Section 1621 prohibits unlawfully present aliens from receiving state and local public benefits unless the state legislature affirmatively authorizes it.

Even though the Maryland legislature had not affirmatively authorized it, Montgomery County, Maryland, nonetheless, started providing cash payments to unlawfully present aliens. As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montgomery County Council appropriated $10 million for an Emergency Assistance Relief Payment (“EARP”) program…. EARP provides cash payments to individuals or families, including unlawfully present aliens … who (1) live in Montgomery County, (2) are not eligible for federal COVID-19 stimulus checks or state benefits, (3) are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits, and (4) have an income equal to or below 50% of the federal poverty level…. The County Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”), which administers the program, distributes payments of $500 to eligible single adults, $1,000 to eligible families with a child, and an additional $150 to families for each additional child, up to $1,450 total….

Seeing their taxes being spent in violation of federal law, Sharon Bauer and Richard Jurgena (“Taxpayers”), Montgomery County taxpayers, sought to enjoin County Executive Marc Elrich and DHHS Director Raymond Crowel (collectively “Montgomery County”) from implementing EARP.

Politicians in Maryland are using COVID as an excuse to violate the law. If they want to give cash payments to illegal aliens, they must be accountable and transparent, and, as federal law requires, pass a state law to do so. Judicial Watch Fights Hard Left 'Critical Race Theory’ If you’re a parent or grandparent you need to pay close attention to what’s being taught in schools and colleges, and if you’re a voter, keep an eye on your local and state governments. All are being overrun by a Marxist racist madness known as Critical Race Theory. Judicial Watch is fighting this tidal wave, as Micah Morrison, our chief investigative reporter, describes in his Investigative Bulletin.

Not long ago, Critical Race Theory was the territory of far-left academics pushing the boundaries of Marxism and nihilistic counterparts such as radical feminism and post-structuralism. All the philosophies to one degree or another advanced the notion that objective truth and standards—in society, in institutions, in law—do not exist. All reality is contingent, all is in flux, all is a construct of language and illusion. One person’s truth is another person’s lies.

Critical Race Theory emerged from this philosophical train wreck in the 1980s to say that Western civilization—and the American experiment in particular—is suffused to its core by white supremacy, white privilege, and institutionalized racism, and must be dismantled. For a long time, CRT was dismissed as an esoteric academic fad. But ideas have consequences and today, in the mysterious alchemy of social upheaval, Critical Race Theory suddenly is everywhere, its poisonous agenda swiftly moving through universities and public schools, government, law, science, business, and the media.

Rooted in the Left doctrine of class struggle, CRT teaches that U.S. society—our culture, laws, beliefs, and modes of governance—are a racist system devoted to upholding the power of white people. CRT is closely linked the new cancel culture. Dissenters from this new orthodoxy are punished. Freedom of speech is dismissed, and open debate is canceled, as we’ll see below in the case of high school coach David Flynn.

The rhetoric of this radicalism is cloaked in the language of social justice, but if you “peel back the layers of ideology and you get to the core of this belief system,” notes writer Christopher Rufo, “they’re advocating for a kind of cultural revolution, steeped in Marxism, adjusted to identity politics, and now activated through Black Lives Matter, through Critical Race Theory, and absurdly through even corporate HR departments.” For more on CRT, see this Heritage Foundation special report.

Judicial Watch is fighting back. Three cases, in particular, illustrate the scope of the Critical Race problem. Tellingly, they all involve schools—a key battleground in this war of ideas.

In suburban Massachusetts, popular football coach David Flynn was abruptly fired from his job at Dedham High School after protesting unannounced changes to his daughter’s middle school curriculum.

Coach Flynn noticed that his seventh-grade daughter’s “World Geography and Ancient History” class was being taught things that had nothing to do with geography or history. The course description described the class as a review of the civilizations of Rome, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America.

Instead, as we note in our lawsuit defending Coach Flynn, the instruction focused on “issues of race, gender, stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination, and politics.” In other words, the Critical Race Theory agenda.

Coach Flynn sent a polite email to school authorities noting that parents had not been informed of the curriculum changes; that some of the issues were not suitable for seventh graders; that the teacher did not seem to be objective and was stating particular political points of view; and that the teacher was using class materials that labeled all police officers as risks to all black people, and all black males as risks to white people.

Coach Flynn asked school authorities for compromises and modest changes to the new curriculum. Their response? You’re fired.

Judicial Watch is suing school authorities in federal court for retaliating against the coach for exercising his First Amendment rights. We’ll be in court Monday, April 26, for a hearing on the case. The public is invited to attend. You can watch a JW video presentation on the case here.

One hour and a world away from Dedham, Harvard College faces a racial reckoning of its own. Bastions of higher education are the incubators of Critical Race Theory, but while accusing Americans of broad racist crimes, they’re often themselves promoting discriminatory policies. It’s no secret, for instance, that many universities have long been discriminating against Asians in admissions practices.

With our colleagues at the Allied Educational Foundation, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Students for Fair Admission’s petition for a Supreme Court hearing challenging the decision by a federal appeals court upholding Harvard’s racial preferences admissions program.

Students for Fair Admission argue that Harvard’s admissions program intentionally discriminates against Asian Americans on the basis of race and violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bans unconstitutional race-based admissions by public universities, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Our brief rejects the notion that discriminating by race in admissions can be justified by “diversity” goals. “College and university administrators might promote greater cross-racial understanding and tolerance in their students, not by racially discriminating against applicants for admission to their schools, but by working to make their schools more tolerant of the expression of different points of view,” we note. “Admissions programs that intentionally discriminate on the basis of race may themselves be negatively affecting the level of racial understanding and tolerance on today’s college campuses.”

In New York City, we are tracking a major lawsuit filed by race-theory radicals seeking “an anti-racist education.” The suit is straight from the Critical Race Theory playbook. It seeks major changes to the New York City public school system, which it claims is “suffused with and perpetuates…various forms of racism in ways blatant and subtle, intended or willfully ignored and tolerated.” Racism in the lawsuit is defined to include “internalized racism,” “interpersonal racism,” “institutional racism,” and “structural racism.” Read the lawsuit here.

A successful lawsuit, The New York Times notes, could compel New York City “to restructure or even eliminate current admissions policies for hundreds of selective schools, including gifted and talented programs and academically selective middle and high schools,” and accelerate pressure for shifting student populations city wide in the name of “diversity” and “integration.”

Parents are fighting back. A new national grassroots organization, Parents Defending Education, has filed a motion to intervene in the New York City case. “PDE’s members, who are parents of children in the system, believe that their children should be judged based on their individual merit, not defined as members of a racial group or blamed for the collective sins of others,” PDE President Nicole Neily told Judicial Watch. “That’s why PDE opposes the call to inject more race-based decision-making into the City’s schools. The best way to achieve equality is to treat children equally, regardless of skin color, and to fix the parts of the City’s schools that are broken.” Read the PDE brief here.

Judicial Watch will be following these cases and other developments in the Critical Race Theory jihad in the months ahead. We’ll keep you posted.


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