DHS Warned Twitter That ‘Permissive’ Policies Could Enable ‘Russian Influence Operations,’ Docs Reveal

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned Twitter that Russia was attempting to take advantage of social media platforms that were “permissive” of “misinformation,” since Russia viewed such sites as “operational advantages,” according to internal Twitter documents published by journalist Matt Taibbi Friday.

The warning was sent via an FBI liaison, who issued a trio of DHS “products” to Twitter on March 3, 2021, two of which concerned the influence of Russia and Iran respectively on upcoming elections, while the third focused on the need for social media companies to ensure they collaborated effectively with the government to combat domestic extremism, according to Taibbi. The liaison sent the products to Twitter legal executive Stacia Cardille following a meeting the week prior, noting they “may be of assistance to Twitter,” and offering to field any questions that Twitter’s team had, Taibbi reported.   (RELATED: FBI Promised ‘No Impediments’ To Data Sharing With Twitter Before 2020 Election, Internal Docs Show)

“We assess that Russian malign influencers probably will increasingly use US social media platforms that offer more permissive operating environments,” one DHS “product” reads, according to Taibbi. “We base this assessment on the reduced effectiveness of Russian influence operations on established US social media platforms and current Russian proxy activity on these growing US platforms. Our assessment also is based on the assumption that Russian malign influences see operational advantages in sites with less active effort to ban false information, offensive language, and inauthentic behavior.”

During the course of the 2020 elections, however, the U.S. government was not focused on the impact of foreign agents on “non-presidential” races, according to an email from Cardille to Twitter’s then-Deputy General Counsel James Baker, published by Taibbi. Cardille wrote to Baker, updating him on the events of a “Government-Industry Sync” meeting, where Twitter and other social media companies met with the FBI, DHS and other government agencies, on Sept. 16, 2020, less than two months before the 2020 election. 

“I asked if the [U.S. government] was tracking foreign threats related to non-presidential races,” Cardille wrote. After a long silence, an unidentified government official informed Twitter that the “government is not tracking foreign interference or threats related to down ballot races.”

To combat domestic radicalization, it was necessary for “private sector partners” to ensure effective collaboration with government agencies and fill any “information gaps” between the private and public sector concerning “potential attacks,” DHS argued in a separate March 3, 2021, product, according to Taibbi.

“Information gaps and challenges associated with the individualized nature of radicalization could be partially mitigated with increased collaboration between law enforcement, terrorism prevention efforts, and private sector partners,” the DHS product reads, according to Taibbi. “We judge these partnerships would improve our ability to detect changes in [Domestic Violent Extremist] trends and provide early warning of potential attacks.”

The DHS and Twitter did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.

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