How The FBI Bullied Twitter Over Lack Of ‘Foreign Influence’ Evidence

How The FBI Bullied Twitter Over Lack Of ‘Foreign Influence’ Evidence

TWITTER FILES Supplemental: How The FBI Bullied Twitter Over Lack Of ‘Foreign Influence’ Evidence

Journalist Matt Taibbi just dropped the latest series of ever-incriminating signals from The Twitter Files, with a supplement to his recent discussion of how Twitter became a de facto Ministry of Truth dissent-killer for The FBI.

As a reminder, this is the fourth topic released under The Twitter Files:

This supplemental to The FBI Subsidiary thread explains how the agency bullied Twitter into dismissing its own findings that “state propaganda” was not a thing on the platform and the stunningly circular media-to-govt agency-to-media circle-jerk that is mis-described as ‘sources’ for any and every rumor or narrative-confirming lie that is possible.

As Matt Taibbi writes at his SubstackOn Friday, I posted a series of exchanges between Twitter and the FBI. One that required a bit too much explaining was left out. But it’s an important document, because it clearly demonstrates that Twitter will not only take requests from the government, it will even act quickly to align its analyses with its “partners.”

2. In July of 2020, San Francisco FBI agent Elvis Chan tells Twitter executive Yoel Roth to expect written questions from the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), the inter-agency group that deals with cyber threats.

3.The questionnaire authors seem displeased with Twitter for implying, in a July 20th “DHS/ODNI/FBI/Industry briefing,” that “you indicated you had not observed much recent activity from official propaganda actors on your platform.”

4 .One would think that would be good news. The agencies seemed to feel otherwise.

5.Chan underscored this:

“There was quite a bit of discussion within the USIC to get clarifications from your company,” he wrote, referring to the United States Intelligence Community. 

6.The task force demanded to know how Twitter came to its unpopular conclusion.

Oddly, it included a bibliography of public sources – including a Wall Street Journal article – attesting to the prevalence of foreign threats, as if to show Twitter they got it wrong. 

7.Roth, receiving the questions, circulated them with other company executives, and complained that he was “frankly perplexed by the requests here, which seem more like something we’d get from a congressional committee than the Bureau.”

8.He added he was not “comfortable with the Bureau (and by extension the IC) demanding written answers.”

The idea of the FBI acting as conduit for the Intelligence Community is interesting, given that many agencies are barred from domestic operations. 

9. He then sent another note internally, saying the premise of the questions was “flawed,” because “we’ve been clear that official state propaganda is definitely a thing on Twitter.” Note the italics for emphasis.

10. Roth suggested they “get on the phone with Elvis ASAP and try to straighten this out,” to disabuse the agencies of any notion that state propaganda is not a “thing” on Twitter. 

11. This exchange is odd among other things because some of the “bibliography” materials cited by the FITF are sourced to intelligence officials, who in turn cited the public sources. 

12. The FBI responded to Friday’s report by saying it “regularly engages with private sector entities to provide information specific to identified foreign malign influence actors’ subversive, undeclared, covert, or criminal activities.”

13. That may be true, but we haven’t seen that in the documents to date. Instead, we’ve mostly seen requests for moderation involving low-follower accounts belonging to ordinary Americans – and Billy Baldwin. 

Watch @bariweiss and @ShellenbergerMD for more from the Twitter Files.

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