The latest Twitter Files release clearly proved the close and inappropriate relationship between the FBI and the social media giant. It came on the heels of documentation that showed the agency regularly flagged accounts and passed those along to the platform for “moderation.”
That partnership ran even deeper and created tensions between the FBI and some in Twitter’s administration. In fact, from 2020 to 2022 there was a nearly constant exchange between agents and the company.
Roughly 80 agents were assigned to monitor the foreign presence on social media after the 2016 presidential election.
Independent journalist Matt Taibbi highlighted evidence that the agency was “displeased” with Twitter. While the FBI claimed that “state media actors” heavily influenced content on the platform, Twitter reported a lack of suspicious activity from these sources.
That’s when the FBI dug deeper. Addressing Twitter content moderators, agents questioned how they determined that “official propaganda actors” were not as prevalent as others. They asked which specific groups the platform included in their findings.
Matt Taibbi released a supplemental installment of the Twitter Files detailing how the FBI pressured Twitter to find non-existent evidence of foreign influence on the platformhttps://t.co/NeU4uHSgX0
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) December 19, 2022
Even more specifically, the FBI asked how deeply Twitter analyzed “the domestic, scam, foreign state, official propaganda, and White supremacist actors.”
Taibbi noted that the analysis from Twitter should be “good news” for the agents. That clearly was not the case.
The FBI even presented Twitter with mainstream media news articles as “proof” that foreign threats were credible and widespread. One was cited from the Wall Street Journal.
The questioning became so pervasive that it caused concern among the platform’s content moderators. Twitter executive Yoel Roth, after receiving the FBI questions, distributed them to other leaders.
Roth was clearly disturbed by the tone of the communications, saying that they “seem more like something we’d get from a congressional committee than the Bureau.”
He added that the questions were “flawed” and he was uncomfortable with the demand for written answers.
In an additional and chilling observation, Taibbi noted that most requests from the FBI for moderation did not address “foreign actors.” Rather, they involved “low-follower accounts belonging to ordinary Americans.”
As the Twitter Files continue to roll out, they reveal the deeply troubling way the FBI went after content after the 2016 presidential election. New CEO Elon Musk is right to reveal this sometimes too-cozy relationship, and it is one that presumably has ended.