FBI Was in Constant Contact with Twitter ‘Trust and Safety’ Team, Documents Show

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The FBI frequently communicated with Twitter’s Trust and Safety team before Elon Musk acquired the company, the sixth installment of the “Twitter Files” exposé series reveals.

Between January 2020 and November 2022, over 150 emails were exchanged between the FBI and former Twitter Trust and Safety head Yoel Roth, journalist Matt Taibbi reported. Roth, who resigned shortly after Musk’s takeover, led the team responsible for suppressing the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop bombshell on the platform.

Some of those virtual conversations involved the FBI asking for information about Twitter users that related to active investigations. But in a significant number of instances, the agency allegedly demanded that Twitter crack down on election ‘misinformation,’ Taibbi noted.

The FBI’s social media-specializing task force, born after the 2016 election, expanded to 80 agents and collaborated with Twitter to hunt down election meddling by foreign actors.

The latest batch of records indicates a pattern, Taibbi said, of a government body aggressively exerting pressure on Twitter to moderate certain content. As late as November 2022, the FBI’s San Francisco branch reached out in an email, addressed “Hello Twitter Contacts,” to flag accounts that could violate internal terms of service.

However, Taibbi suggests that the FBI’s scrutiny applied to left-leaning and right-leaning accounts alike although perhaps not equally. Media personality Dr. Claire Foster, who runs a parody account, also caught the attention of the branch’s private sector engagement squad in November for joking about manipulating ballot counting on behalf of Democrats.

“Anyone who cannot discern obvious satire from reality has no place making decisions for others or working for the feds,” Foster told Taibbi when she learned her account had been flagged.

Four out of six accounts the FBI alerted Twitter to were ultimately suspended.

More FBI interference came on November 5 of this year, when the agency’s National Election Command Post sent the San Francisco field office a list of 25 accounts that it believed “may warrant additional action.” NECP expressed concerns that the accounts were engaging in misinformation about the upcoming midterm election on November 8.

Twitter obliged some warnings, taking various disciplinary steps against many of the accounts. Seven were permanently deplatformed, one was temporarily locked out for spam behaviors, and nine had tweets bounced for “civic misinformation policy violations,” according to Taibbi’s files.

Other Twitter document dumps from Taibbi and independent journalist Bari Weiss have unearthed damning details about high profile censorship cases, such as that of the Hunter Biden breakthrough and former president Trump’s banning.

A common thread among these junctions was that the decision to suppress was not settled immediately. Internal confusion and intense disagreement ensued between staff who advocated stripping certain figures of Twitter access and staff who questioned that path.

For example, after Trump posted inflammatory tweets following the January 6 Capitol Riot, employees were split on whether his words qualified as “incitement” to violence.

“It’s pretty clear he’s saying the ‘American Patriots’ are the ones who voted for him and not the terrorists (we can call them that, right?) from Wednesday,” one staffer wrote, according to Weiss.

“I also am not seeing clear or coded incitement in the DJT tweet,” Anika Navaroli, a Twitter policy official, responded over email. “I’ll respond in the elections channel and say that our team has assessed and found no vios”—or violations—“for the DJT one.”

Despite the dissent, the staff arguing for Trump’s removal won out in 2021- until Musk reversed his ban and reinstated his account last month.


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