FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Ted Cruz said the Biden administration "funneled" more than $66 million in taxpayer dollars to nonprofits and academic institutions for "misinformation research," in what he calls an effort by the federal government to "censor Americans" while attempting to "absolve" itself of "liability for infringement of Americans’ First Amendment rights."
Cruz, R-Texas, is now demanding the State Department, FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the National Science Foundation turn over information regarding their role in "helping facilitate the censorship of Americans' constitutionally protected speech online."
Sen. Ted Cruz attends a Senate Judiciary Committee markup in the Hart Building on May 11, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
The move comes as part of Cruz’s months-long investigation into Big Tech’s content moderation and alleged censorship practices. Cruz’s office says the ongoing investigation has "exposed the extent to which suppression of free speech on social media has been driven by government agencies and non-governmental third parties that receive funding from taxpayers."
In letters to the State Department, FBI, CISA, and NSF, Cruz said the Biden administration "directly" flagged content to social media companies, but also "funneled money to private-sector third parties, including nonprofits and academic institutions that then pressured social media companies to remove content and accounts."
"By laundering taxpayer dollars through third parties, government agencies tried to absolve themselves of liability for infringement of Americans’ First Amendment rights," Cruz wrote.
Cruz provided examples, including one in which the State Department made an effort to "counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts" and sent social media companies lists of individuals that they identified as "inauthentic." But Cruz’s investigation revealed that those lists included not only foreign actors but "everyday Americans."
Cruz also said the National Science Foundation sent millions of dollars to fund "Election Integrity Partnerships" at Stanford University and the University of Washington. Cruz said those programs successfully influenced social media companies into "moderating" millions of tweets flagged by CISA and the FBI.
Cruz pointed to a 2021 interview with the leader of the Stanford University program. Cruz said the lead researcher suggested taxpayer dollars were "intentionally channeled through a third party so that the government could evade First Amendment liability."
"Just because the government hires a hitman to kill speech does not absolve the government of guilt," Cruz wrote in the letters. "Regrettably, the examples described above appear to be just a handful of numerous instances of third parties being awarded taxpayer dollars and other government support to suppress speech."
Cruz added: "It has also become apparent that our nation’s higher education institutions were often used as conduits through which the government could police speech online."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., signed onto Cruz’s letter to the FBI.
Cruz asks the agencies to provide detailed information regarding their taxpayer-funded grant-making and non-governmental partnerships processes. The deadline for the agencies to respond is Dec. 19, 2023.
The letters come amid Cruz’s months-long investigation. Since the onset of the probe, Senate Commerce Committee Republican staff have identified more than 100 National Science Foundation grants between 2021 and 2023, which totaled more than $66 million in taxpayer funding toward "misinformation" research.
The committee found that NSF sent $5 million to the University of Washington to create a "digital dashboard" so that public officials could identify "trending misinformation" and "strategically correct" misinformation on social media; $5 million to George Washington University to create a therapy toolkit and digital reporting assistant for journalists who believed they were the targets of "misinformation-driven harassment campaigns"; more than $100,0000 to Georgia Tech to create a program that writes posts for social media users to counter "misinformation"; and more.
Meanwhile, Cruz's investigation comes amid a similar House Weaponization Subcommittee probe. In June, that panel also said CISA had "facilitated the censorship of Americans directly" and through third-party intermediaries during the Biden administration.
Sen. Ted Cruz and President Biden (Getty Images)
CISA Executive Director Brandon Wales, in a statement to Fox News Digital in June, said the agency "does not and has never censored speech or facilitated censorship; any such claims are patently false."
"Every day, the men and women of CISA execute the agency’s mission of reducing risk to U.S. critical infrastructure in a way that protects Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy," Wales said. "In response to concerns from election officials of all parties regarding foreign influence operations and disinformation that may impact the security of election infrastructure, CISA mitigates the risk of disinformation by sharing information on election literacy and election security with the public and by amplifying the trusted voices of election officials across the nation."
CISA, which was founded in 2018, was intended to be an agency focused on protecting critical infrastructure and guarding against cybersecurity threats.
Brooke Singman is a Fox News Digital politics reporter. You can reach her at