After documents from the “Twitter Files”, which revealed that Twitter was influenced by the FBI, the FBI left many important questions unanswered.
The FBI was a major influence in Twitter’s decision not to censor Hunter Biden’s New York Post reporting. They also made many censorship requests for Twitter in the run-up to 2020, as documented by Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger.
In the months leading up to the 2020 election, Yoel Roth, the former Twitter Head of Trust and Safety, met weekly with the FBI. He stated this in a December 2020 sworn statement. Roth stated that Roth was also warned by the FBI of a possible “hack-and leak” operation by state agents, which would target Hunter Biden shortly prior to the election.
Taibbi reported that Twitter employees took “extraordinary steps” to suppress Hunter Biden’s laptop story, which was allegedly in violation of the company’s “hacked material” policy.
Roth wrote to his Twitter colleagues shortly after the Post published the laptop story. He said that the story was not clearly in violation of the Hacked Materials Policy nor any other policy. Shellenberger also reported that Roth felt that the story “feels very much like a subtle leak operation.”
Roth replied to Shellenberger in an email about an hour later. He said he had agreed with unnamed experts who claimed that there was a separate hack and that the hackers loaded the hacked materials onto the laptop that miraculously appeared in a Delaware repair shop.”
Shellenberger pointed out that Twitter executives were convinced by the FBI’s influence operation that the Hunter Biden laptop was not a whistleblower. Shellenberger found that Twitter employees also cited false media reports about Russian involvement in the Hunter Biden laptop, which was revealed by Shellenberger’s internal communications. This was during the discussion of the “hacked material” determination.
According to Taibbi’s emails, there was tension between Twitter’s safety and trust employees who were charged with content moderation and company policy and communications employees who questioned the censorship decision.
“Hacking” was the excuse. But, within a few hours everyone realized that it wasn’t going down. Taibbi was told by an employee that no one could reverse the situation.
Coworkers raised doubts about the decision not to publish the story. Twitter General Deputy Counsel Jim Baker (formerly general counsel at FBI) sent an internal message in defense of the laptop censorship. Taibbi said that Baker claimed “caution” was warranted because it was “reasonable” to assume the materials had been hacked. According to Shellenberger emails, he also frequently questioned the authenticity Hunter Biden materials in communications to Roth and other employees.
The Daily Caller News Foundation confirmed what the Post called the “smoking-gun” email sent from Hunter Biden’s laptop, less than three weeks after it was reported by the Post on Oct. 14, 2020.
Baker organized a meeting with Matthew J. Perry at the FBI General Counsel’s Office shortly after Twitter had suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop news. Shellenberger found out that Perry would send a Dec. 2020 note thanking the FBI of its assistance with election integrity.
Shellenberger revealed that the FBI paid Twitter more than $3 million between 2019 and 2020 to reimburse Twitter staff for processing FBI requests.
Taibbi claims that the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, (FITF), routinely flagged accounts and content for Twitter to suppress. This task force has more than 80 agents. It was established to deal with foreign tampering and social media threats following the 2016 election.
Yoel Roth was sent 150 emails by the FTIF, mainly from FBI Special Agent Elvis Chan, Taibbi reported. Taibbi reported that Roth stated once that he was “perplexed” and “not particularly comfortable with” Chan’s insistence that Roth submit written responses to the FITF’s questions regarding foreign influence operations via Twitter.
Roth repeatedly denied the FBI’s request for evidence of foreign interference. Shellenberger reported that Roth stated in May 2020 that they had not yet identified any activity that would be considered interesting to them (or flag as such in the context of foreign influence).
According to Shellenberger, there were no impediments for the FBI to share classified information with Twitter. It did so via secure communications channel Teleporter. Taibbi reported that the FITF sent hundreds of requests to Twitter via Teleporter for content moderation of accounts it had flagged in advance of the 2020 election.
According to Shellenberger, Chan and Roth created a separate encrypted messaging system for the FBI/Twitter in mid-September 2020.
Shellenberger reported that Chan also organized for Twitter executives to be granted Top Secret security clearances in order to send them classified information on the Russian hacking group APT28.
Roth later revealed to Kara Swisher, a tech journalist, that the Hunter Biden laptop case “set off all my finely tuned APT28 Hack-and-Leak Campaign alarm bells.”
Taibbi reported that Chan included employees of the Central Intelligence Agency and other government agencies at meetings between the FITF (and Twitter) every time.
According to the New York Post, more than a dozen ex-FBI employees were employed at Twitter before Elon Musk bought the company. The Post discovered that Matthew Williams, a former Co-lead for Trust and Safety, spent 15 years working as an FBI agent on intelligence. Jeff Carlton is another Twitter Trust and Safety executive. He was an intelligence analyst at the FBI, CIA and U.S Marines before joining Twitter.
The Post reported that Dawn Burton, former Director of Strategy and Operation, was also a deputy chief of staff to James Comey. Kevin Michelena, a former Senior Corporate Security Analyst, spent 12 years as an FBI intelligence analyst, before being hired by Twitter.
Shellenberger reported that former FBI employees at Twitter had their own internal chat channel and chart to help alumni transition to Twitter.
According to the Post, multiple FBI alums made political contributions to Democrats when they joined Twitter. According to OpenSecrets, 99% of the company’s campaign donations were given to Democrats by employees in 2022.
“It is regrettable that conspiracy theorists, and other people are feeding the American public false information with the sole purpose to attempt to discredit the agency,” said the FBI in a statement to respond to the revelations from “Twitter Files”.