Latest Twitter Files reveal FBI’s ‘constant and pervasive’ contact with the social media platform

The FBI is defending itself in the wake of the release of the latest “Twitter Files,” which show that the agency had regularly asked Twitter to censor/silence certain accounts.

“The FBI regularly engages with private sector entities to provide information specific to identified foreign malign influence actors’ subversive, undeclared, covert, or criminal activities,” an FBI spokesperson told the Daily Mail late Friday.

“Private sector entities independently make decisions about what, if any, action they take on their platforms and for their customers after the FBI has notified them,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson basically argued that their liaison with Twitter was customary and routine. However, such liaisons weren’t customary enough for the FBI to admit which other social media companies it’s been in communication with.

The FBI’s statement to the Daily Mail came in response to the release of the latest installment of the “Twitter Files”:

This installment documented how the FBI used to be in constant contact with Twitter officials prior to billionaire Elon Musk purchasing the social media platform.

“Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive, as if it were a subsidiary. Between January 2020 and November 2022, there were over 150 emails between the FBI and former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth,” journalist Matt Taibbi reported.

Some of the emails were benign, like when San Francisco-based FBI agent Elvis Chan wished Roth a Happy New Year, or when agents sought information on certain criminal suspects. Others, not so much.

“[A] surprisingly high number are requests by the FBI for Twitter to take action on election misinformation, even involving joke tweets from low-follower accounts,” according to Taibbi.

These requests came from an FBI task force known as FTIF. Created after the 2016 presidential election that Democrats claimed was stolen, the task force “swelled to 80 agents and corresponded with Twitter to identify alleged foreign influence and election tampering of all kinds.”

And to, more specifically, censor and silence people — even ones guilty of no more than making jokes:

“Anyone who cannot discern obvious satire from reality has no place making decisions for others or working for the feds,” Twitter user @ClaireFosterPHD, who was one of the jokers targeted by Twitter, said in a statement to Taibbi.

“My thoughts initially include 1. Seems like prima facie 1A violation 2. Holy cow, me, an account with the reach of an amoeba 3. What else are they looking at?” another victim, @lexitollah, added.

“I can’t believe the FBI is policing jokes on Twitter. That’s crazy,” a third Twitter user, @Tiberius444, said.

Speaking on Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” late Friday, columnist Charlie Hurt of the Washington Examiner argued that this targeting of Twitter users’ free speech rights was “a clear violation of the First Amendment.”

“If this was happening during the Pentagon Papers, and we were seeing this level of collusion between the federal government and news, there would rightly be an outcry,” he said.

The latest “Twitter Files” also provoked disgust from eponymous host Tucker Carlson.

“The FBI was working for a political party – the one in charge. How is this different from what the secret police do in authoritarian countries?” he said.

But according to Taibbi’s reporting, it wasn’t just the FBI. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had all been in close contact with Twitter as well.

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Vivek Saxena

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