By Zachary Stieber
Emails from the FBI to Twitter released on Dec. 16 showed bureau officials flagging specific people for Twitter to take action against, the latest tranche of documents that bolster evidence that the government and Big Tech have been colluding to censor Americans.
In one missive dated Nov. 3, FBI officials flagged 25 accounts, including that of the media outlet Right Side Broadcasting Network that had created posts that “may warrant additional action due to the accounts being utilized to spread misinformation about the upcoming election.” The list was sent to Twitter several days later by Elvis Chan, a top official at the FBI’s office in San Francisco.
In another email, dated Nov. 10, the FBI’s San Francisco field office sent Twitter four accounts, stating that agents believed they “may potentially constitute violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service for any action or inaction deemed appropriate within Twitter policy.”
A third email, an internal Twitter missive, showed that Twitter was processing a list of posts that had been flagged by the FBI for “Possible Violative Content.” One of the posts commented on a video of then-Democrat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talking about COVID-19 vaccine mandates and stated: “This is our future guys if the dems get full control. If you are in George you better vote Wednesday.”
The emails were released by journalist Matt Taibbi.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk has said that he granted Taibbi and other journalists access to Twitter documents.
Musk shared Taibbi’s thread of posts shortly after it was posted.
Multiple accounts that the FBI flagged were banned, including at least one with a handle indicating they are based in the United States.
Twitter and the FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The files showed that the FBI and Yoel Roth, the recently departed head of trust and safety at Twitter, exchanged over 150 emails between January 2020 and November 2022, according to Taibbi. Chan said that he was regularly in contact with Roth and another senior Twitter official, Will Newland, who also recently left the company after Musk took over. Chan also said he was regularly in touch with equivalent officials at other big tech firms, including Google and Facebook.
Big Tech Depositions
Chan was recently deposed in the case brought by the states of Missouri and Louisiana against the government and big tech firms, including Twitter, for alleged censorship coordination.
Chan said under oath that the FBI set up a command post ahead of the 2020 election to send election-related posts to Twitter and other platforms for possible action. A similar group flagged posts on the day of the 2022 midterms, Chan said.
“I remember in some cases they would relay that they had taken down the posts. In other cases, they would say that this did not violate their terms of service,” Chan said.
He categorized the FBI as having a “50 percent success rate.”
Chan was identified by Facebook as one of the officials who warned about a foreign “hack and leak” operation ahead of the 2020 election, shortly before the laptop computer owned by President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was first reported on in October of that year.
“From my recollection, I remember that the FBI warned—that I or someone from the FBI warned—the social media companies about the potential for a 2016-style DNC hack-and-dump operation,” Chan said during the deposition.
Democratic National Committee files were posted online by WikiLeaks in 2016. U.S. officials have said the DNC was hacked on or around May 25 to June 1, 2016, but Crowdstrike, the firm the DNC hired to analyze what happened, has since told The Epoch Times that the DNC systems were not hacked during that time frame.
In October 2020, Twitter locked the New York Post, which first reported on Hunter Biden’s computer, out of its account, prevented other users from sharing the link, and curtailed the circulation of existing posts that had shared the story. Facebook also cut down on the article’s circulation.
Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later said it was a mistake to censor the computer story, while Roth said, “in my opinion, yes,” when asked recently whether it was a mistake.
Previous sets of files released by Taibbi and others showed Twitter employees were confused over why the story was censored.
“I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe,” one said.
Now-former Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker—a former FBI lawyer—said in a different message that “we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked” but added that “at this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted.”
Ivan Pentchoukov and Bill Pan contributed to this report.