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Twitter Files 6.0: FBI, security agencies stayed in regular touch with top Twitter employees, frequently sent censorship requests

According to Matt Taibbi, the email exchanges between the FBI and Yoel Roth included reminders for quarterly calls and information about users pertaining to active investigations.

On Friday (December 16, US local time), the sixth tranche of internal communication between Twitter employees was released on the micro-blogging platform.

Dubbed the ‘Twitter Files 6.0’, it exposed how the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other security agencies stayed in regular touch with top Twitter executives and sent requests to censor accounts.

The explosive story, covered by independent journalist Matt Taibbi, also showed how Twitter employees readily complied with the censorship requests under one pretext or the other.

At the very onset, the journalist pointed out how the Twitter Files have unearthed the relationship between the FBI and the top executives of the social media giant.

“Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive as if it were a subsidiary,” he noted while pointing out 150 email exchanges between the FBI and Yoel Roth (former Global Head of Trust & Safety) during the period of January 2020 and November 2022.

So far, the ‘Twitter Files’ have exposed how Yoel Roth has justified the censorship of the infamous New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden. He was also seen patting himself on the back for quickly censoring Donald Trump. 

According to Matt Taibbi, the email exchanges between the FBI and Yoel Roth included reminders for quarterly calls and information about users pertaining to active investigations.

He pointed out that a large tranche of emails from the FBI involved directing the Twitter team to take action against accounts under the pretext of ‘election misinformation.’ Taibbi added how several such handles posted satirical content and joke tweets.

He also informed that the FBI created its own social media task force, comprising 80 agents, to prevent ‘foreign influence and tampering’ in US elections.

The ‘Twitter Files 6.0’ revealed that Twitter employees were pressurised by the FBI, and even the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to increasingly moderate content on the micro-blogging site.

“What stands out is the sheer quantity of reports from the government. Some are aggregated from public hotlines,” noted Taibbi.

The independent journalist revealed an internal chat between the FBI and Twitter moderation team in November this year where the federal agency was seen demanding action against 4 accounts for ‘potentially violating Twitter rules’.

Interestingly, the Twitter employees readily complied and permanently suspended the said accounts, including one that posted only satirical content.

On November 6 this year, the National Election Command Post of the FBI sent a list of 25 usernames to the Twitter team and sought ‘additional action’ against them.

On receiving the request from the FBI, Twitter permanently suspended 7 of the 25 accounts and took action against 9 handles for violation of ‘civic management policy.’ One account was temporarily suspended for ‘spam’.

Interestingly, Twitter took no action against American actor Billy Baldwin, who had claimed that former US President Donald Trump would go to jail on the release of his tax returns by the Supreme court. Baldwin had also accused Elon Musk of ‘delivering’ mid-term elections to the Republicans.

In a letter addressed to former Deputy General Counsel of Twitter Jim Baker (now terminated by Elon Musk), a legal executive by the name of Stacia Cardille informed about her weekly meetings with the Department of Justice, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“The Twitter exec writes she explicitly asked if there were “impediments” to the sharing of classified information “with industry.” The answer? FBI was adamant no impediments to sharing exist,” Matt Taibbi informed.

“This passage underscores the unique one-big-happy-family vibe between Twitter and the FBI. With what other firm would the FBI blithely agree to “no impediments” to classified information?” he asked.

The independent journalist also shared an internal letter, dating back to January last year, where top Twitter employees were seen mulling action against accounts for ‘possible violative content.’ Interestingly, the list of such Twitter handles (with low engagement) was provided by the FBI.

“This is what the FBI spends its time on,” Matt Taibbi noted.

‘Twitter Files 6.0’ also exposed the close nexus between top Twitter employees and federal agencies. In one email exchange dating back to March 2021, an FBI officer was seen thanking a senior Twitter executive for speaking to him.

Later, the security official also shared DHS bulletins with the Twitter team and emphasised “the need for greater collaboration between law enforcement and private sector partners.”

“The ubiquity of the 2016 Russian interference story as stated pretext for building out the censorship machine can’t be overstated. It’s analogous to how 9/11 inspired the expansion of the security state,” journalist Matt Taibbi tweeted.

He informed that the FBI had multiple ways to reach out to the top Twitter employees and influence the decision-making process. In one such internal communication, the employees were seen congratulating each other for reviewing ‘possible violative content’ sent over by the FBI.

It must be mentioned that requests for content moderation and censorship were not just limited to the FBI. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and State governments were equal parties to it.

In one instance, officials from California were seen coercing Twitter employees to take action against a tweet by Donald Trump. According to Matt Taibbi, Twitter received reports from an outlet named Partner Support Portal, which was created by DHS’ partner organisation ‘The Center for Internet Security’.

“The takeaway: what most people think of as the “deep state” is really a tangled collaboration of state agencies, private contractors, and (sometimes state-funded) NGOs. The lines become so blurred as to be meaningless,” Matt Taibbi concluded.

Twitter Files 3.0 also revealed the influence of the FBI on Twitter employees

On December 9, the third tranche of confidential conversations between top Twitter executives was released on the micro-blogging platform which also exposed the influence of FBI on Twitter. 

The ‘Twitter Files 3.0’ revealed that the senior executives of Twitter Inc. were in constant touch with federal agencies ahead of the 2020 US Presidential elections.

It revealed how the Federal Bureau of Investigation routinely sent tweets, posted by Republican candidates, to the moderation team for expunction.

Matt Taibbi informed that Twitter began enforcing rules arbitrarily and using pretexts to justify their actions. Following the US Capitol riots, the meetings between top Twitter employees and federal agencies intensified.

Matt Taibbi unearthed how the mindset of top Twitter executives evolved between late 2020 and early 2021. He informed that a channel titled ‘us2020_xfn_enforcement’ was created to discuss the censorship of high-profile accounts (also called Very Important Tweeters) in the context of US elections.

The ‘Twitter Files 3.0’ exposed how the likes of Vijaya Gadde (former Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust at Twitter) and Yoel Roth (former Global Head of Trust & Safety) were making decisions based on whims and fancies.

“The latter group were a high-speed Supreme Court of moderation, issuing content rulings on the fly, often in minutes and based on guesses, gut calls, even Google searches, even in cases involving the President,” journalist Matt Taibbi noted.

He also added that the duo was “clearly liaising with federal enforcement and intelligence agencies about moderation of election-related content”.

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Duttahttps://dibakardutta.in/
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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