The Biden administration has tapped a researcher who applauded Twitter for censoring stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop to "proactively respond" to international disinformation campaigns.
The Defense Department in May inked a contract with a tech firm run by Lisa Kaplan, a disinformation researcher who said Twitter’s decision to block links to the New York Post’s October 2020 story about the troubled first son was a "good move." On Twitter and in the press at the time, Kaplan applauded what she called the social media giant’s "efforts … to address disinformation, making it so that people can't share a link known to be false."
Kaplan’s support for the censorship of a legitimate news story could raise concerns about the reliability of her work for the Pentagon. According to government spending records, the Pentagon awarded a $72,321 contract this year to Kaplan’s firm, LCK Strategies, for a software tool that tracks global disinformation campaigns. That follows a $49,328 contract to LCK Strategies in 2021 to build a "machine learning tool" to detect and "mitigate" disinformation. LCK Strategies, which Kaplan launched in 2019, also operates under the name Alethea Group.
The company claims it provides "unrivaled intelligence on disinformation networks" through its software tool, called Artemis. The tool "conducts multi-channel analysis across a broad array of online content, including forums, social media and other resources to proactively identify and investigate disinformation online."
The contract is the latest example of the Biden administration relying on disinformation researchers who have called for censorship of legitimate news stories or themselves promoted disinformation. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security hired researcher Nina Jankowicz to lead its Disinformation Governance Board, ostensibly launched to combat disinformation related to Russia’s war on Ukraine and the U.S.-Mexico border crisis. Republicans questioned the board’s mandate after it emerged that Jankowicz claimed the release of Hunter Biden’s emails was part of a "Russian influence op."
No evidence has emerged to support that claim. Instead, Hunter Biden abandoned his laptop at a Delaware computer repair shop in April 2019. The FBI authenticated the laptop in late 2019, according to government documents released earlier this year.
Kaplan’s assertion that the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden was "known to be false" has likewise been debunked. The Post had reported that Biden’s laptop included an email from a Ukrainian business partner in May 2015 thanking him for a dinner event with then-Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. While the Biden campaign initially disputed that Joe Biden attended the event, a longtime Hunter Biden business associate told Congress last month that the dinner occurred.
It is perhaps no surprise that Jankowicz and Kaplan have worked together in the past. Alethea Group hired Jankowicz in 2021 as its director of external engagement, to "educate the public about the impact of disinformation on public safety, public health, and the functioning of global democracies."
The Pentagon has awarded other controversial grants this year to organizations that support censorship of so-called disinformation. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a British think tank that received $80,000 to study extremism in the military, called for social media companies to "actively monitor" conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro, for allegedly misgendering biologically male athletes who compete in women’s sports.
Kaplan and the Department of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.