Before Twitter was bought by billionaire Elon Musk in October, the FBI used to send it messages flagging tweets for suggested moderation, according to an ongoing release of internal documents by Musk.
Among contacts with the FBI’s social media task force FTIF, staffed with some 80 agents, some were mundane, but “a surprisingly high number are requests by the FBI for Twitter to take action on election misinformation, even involving joke tweets from low-follower accounts,” said Matt Taibbi, a journalist who has been working with Musk to release the internal documents, which have been dubbed the Twitter Files.
“The Twitter Files show something new: agencies like the FBI and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) regularly sending social media content to Twitter through multiple entry points, pre-flagged for moderation,” Taibbi said on Twitter late Friday.
“Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive, as if it were a subsidiary,” he said.
Taibbi showed a number of email exchanges between FBI officials and Twitter, mostly the FBI flagging tweets or accounts for "possible violative content," but said many of the accounts or tweets were actually satire or simple jokes.
“Instead of chasing child sex predators or terrorists, the FBI has agents – lots of them – analyzing and mass-flagging social media posts,” wrote Taibbi.
“Not as part of any criminal investigation, but as a permanent, end-in-itself surveillance operation. People should not be okay with this,” he added.
In response to the revelations, an FBI spokesperson told Fox News: "The FBI regularly engages with private sector entities to provide information specific to identified foreign malign influence actors’ subversive, undeclared, covert, or criminal activities. Private sector entities independently make decisions about what, if any, action they take on their platforms and for their customers after the FBI has notified them.”
Citing the internal communications, Taibbi and journalist Bari Weiss have accused Twitter’s pre-Musk management team of having silenced conservative or contrarian voices.
Since taking over Twitter, Musk, 51, has sacked roughly half of the company’s 8,000 workers, reinstated previously banned accounts on the platform, and also announced an “amnesty” for suspended accounts, prompting concerns about a rise in disinformation and hate speech.
On Thursday, Musk suspended a number of journalists’ Twitter accounts, only to restore them Saturday based on online polling. Critics say the suspensions were unfair and capricious and the quick reversals a sign of Musk’s erratic management.
Critics have also downplayed the significance of the Twitter Files as overblown.