On Capitol Hill and in the courts, Republican lawmakers and activists are mounting a sweeping legal campaign against universities, think tanks and private companies that study the spread of disinformation, accusing them of colluding with the government to suppress conservative speech online.
The effort has encumbered its targets with expansive requests for information and, in some cases, subpoenas — demanding notes, emails and other information related to social media companies and the government dating back to 2015. Complying has consumed time and resources and already affected the groups’ ability to do research and raise money, according to several people involved.
They and others warned that the campaign undermined the fight against disinformation in American society when the problem is, by most accounts, on the rise — and when another presidential election is around the corner. Many of those behind the Republican effort had also joined former President Donald J. Trump in falsely challenging the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
“I think it’s quite obviously a cynical — and I would say wildly partisan — attempt to chill research,” said Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, an organization that works to safeguard freedom of speech and the press.