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The Twitter Files Raised A Lot Of Questions About Twitter And The FBI. The Bureau Hasn’t Answered Any Of Them

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James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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The FBI has left important questions unanswered after documents from the “Twitter Files” revealed that the bureau influenced Twitter’s content moderation.

The FBI had a major influence on Twitter’s decision to censor the New York Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop and made numerous censorship requests to Twitter in the lead-up to the 2020 election, as documented in the “Twitter Files” reporting by independent journalists Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi.

Former Twitter Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth had weekly meetings with the FBI in the months before the 2020 election, he said in a Dec. 2020 sworn deposition. The FBI also warned Roth of a potential “hack-and-leak” operation by state actors that would target Hunter Biden shortly before the election, Roth said.

Twitter employees “took extraordinary steps” to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story for allegedly violating the company’s “hacked materials” policy, Taibbi reported.

Shortly after the Post published its laptop story, Roth emailed his Twitter coworkers to say that the story “isn’t clearly violative of our Hacked Materials Policy, nor is it clearly in violation of anything else.” Roth added that his personal view was that the story “feels a lot like a somewhat subtle leak operation,” Shellenberger reported.

About an hour later, Roth said in an email that he agreed with unnamed “experts” who claimed that, as Roth put it, “there was a hack that happened separately, and they loaded the hacked materials on the laptop that magically appeared at a repair shop in Delaware,” according to Shellenberger.

The FBI’s “influence operation persuaded Twitter execs that the Hunter Biden laptop did *not* come from a whistleblower,” Shellenberger noted. Internal communications reviewed by Shellenberger also revealed that Twitter employees cited false media reports about Russian involvement with the Hunter Biden laptop during discussions of the “hacked materials” determination.

There was tension between the Twitter’s trust and safety employees, who were tasked with content moderation, and the company’s policy and communications employees, who questioned the censorship decision, according to emails reviewed by Taibbi.

“Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it,” one employee told Taibbi.

As coworkers expressed doubts about the decision to suppress the story, Twitter General Deputy Counsel Jim Baker, formerly general counsel at the FBI, sent an internal message defending the laptop censorship. He claimed that “caution is warranted” because it was “reasonable to assume” the materials were hacked, according to Taibbi. He also repeatedly questioned the authenticity of the Hunter Biden materials in messages to Roth and other employees, according to emails released by Shellenberger.

The Daily Caller News Foundation verified what the Post described as the “smoking gun” email from the Hunter Biden laptop less than three weeks after the Post broke the story on Oct. 14, 2020. (RELATED: POLL: Most Americans Support Criminal Prosecution For Twitter Censors Who Colluded With Feds)

Baker arranged a meeting with Matthew J. Perry in the FBI General Counsel’s office soon after Twitter suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story. He would later send a note in Dec. 2020 thanking the FBI for assisting Twitter with election integrity, Shellenberger discovered.

The FBI paid Twitter over $3 million from 2019 through 2020 to reimburse Twitter’s staff for processing requests from the FBI, Shellenberger revealed.

The FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) routinely flagged content and accounts for Twitter to suppress, according to Taibbi. The task force employs more than 80 special agents and was created to handle social media threats and foreign tampering following the 2016 election.

Yoel Roth received 150 emails from the FTIF, primarily delivered by FBI Special Agent Elvis Chan of the San Francisco Field Office, Taibbi reported. On one occasion, Roth said he was “perplexed by” and “not particularly comfortable” with Chan insisting that Roth send written answers to the FITF’s questions about foreign influence operations on Twitter, Taibbi reported.

Roth repeatedly pushed back on the FBI’s requests for evidence of foreign tampering, saying in May 2020 that “we haven’t yet identified activity that we’d typically refer to you (or even flag as interesting in the foreign influence context),” Shellenberger reported.

The FBI had “no impediments” to sharing classified information with Twitter, which it delivered through secure communications channel Teleporter, according to Shellenberger. Via Teleporter, the FITF sent Twitter hundreds of requests for content moderation on accounts it flagged ahead of the 2020 election, Taibbi reported.

Chan and Roth set up a separate encrypted messaging network for the FBI and Twitter in mid-September 2020, according to Shellenberger.

Chan also arranged for Twitter executives to receive Top Secret security clearances to send them classified information about Russian hacking group APT28, Shellenberger reported.

Roth later told tech journalist Kara Swisher that the Hunter Biden laptop story “set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 hack-and-leak campaign alarm bells.”

Chan consistently included employees from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other government agencies in meetings between the FITF and Twitter, Taibbi reported.

More than a dozen former FBI employees worked at Twitter prior to Elon Musk’s purchase of the company, according to the New York Post. Former Co-lead of Trust and Safety Matthew Williams spent 15 years as an FBI agent working on intelligence, the Post found. Another Twitter Trust and Safety executive, Jeff Carlton, worked as an intelligence analyst for the FBI, CIA and U.S. Marines before joining Twitter.

Other Twitter executives with FBI experience include former Director of Strategy and Operations Dawn Burton, who was deputy chief of staff to former FBI Director James Comey, and former Senior Corporate Security Analyst Kevin Michelena, who spent 12 years working as an FBI intelligence analyst before he was hired by Twitter, the Post reported.

Inside Twitter, the company’s former FBI employees had their own internal slack channel and a chart to assist FBI alumni in transitioning to Twitter, Shellenberger reported.

Multiple FBI alums made political donations to Democrats when they joined Twitter, according to the Post. The company’s employees gave 99% of their campaign donations to Democrats in the 2022 election cycle, according to campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets.

“It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency,” the FBI said in a statement responding to the “Twitter Files” revelations.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller.