The CIA was among a number of security state agencies, including the State Department and the Pentagon, involved in censorship at Twitter, according to the ninth tranche of Twitter Files released by Elon Musk, via journalist Matt Taibbi.
Following the bizarre statement released by the FBI, calling the Twitter Files reporting “misinformation” spread by “conspiracy theorists” with the “sole purpose of discrediting the agency,” Taibbi posted a new tranche revealing much more widespread government involvement in censorship than previously known — adding, “Why stop with one [agency]?”
The ninth release of Twitter Files displays aggressive efforts by the CIA and other agencies in the security state to force Twitter’s hand in censoring various political opinions and speech, through constant contact with the company’s executives, one of whom Taibbi reveals is ex-CIA himself.
Taibbi writes that the FBI was the primary link between the intelligence community and Twitter, describing the bureau as a “doorman” for the other agencies to connect with Twitter.
“The files show the FBI acting as doorman to a vast program of social media surveillance and censorship,” Taibbi writes, “encompassing agencies across the federal government – from the State Department to the Pentagon to the CIA.”
The contact was so constant, and between so many government actors, that Twitter execs would lose track of meetings, with the communications being described as “dizzying.”
“Twitter had so much contact with so many agencies that executives lost track. Is today the DOD, and tomorrow the FBI? Is it the weekly call, or the monthly meeting? It was dizzying,” Taibbi writes.
“A chief end result was that thousands of official ‘reports’ flowed to Twitter from all over, through the [Foreign Influence Task Force] and the FBI’s San Francisco field office,” Taibbi continues.
The CIA is referred to in the communications as “OGA,” which stands for “other government agency,” Taibbi explains, adding that the FBI and “OGA” were involved, not only with Twitter, but also with “virtually every major tech firm,” including “Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, Reddit, even Pinterest, and many others,” as well as “industry players.”
“One of the most common forums was a regular meeting of the multi-agency Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), attended by spates of executives, FBI personnel, and – nearly always – one or two attendees marked ‘OGA’,” Taibbi says. “The FITF meeting agendas virtually always included, at or near the beginning, an ‘OGA briefing,’ usually about foreign matters,” he adds.
“‘Other Government Agencies’ ended up sharing intelligence through the FBI and FITF not just with Twitter, but with Yahoo!, Twitch, Clouldfare, LinkedIn, even Wikimedia,” Taibbi says.
Taibbi describes the FBI and FITF turning in “mountains of domestic moderation requests,” on a vanishing messaging app called “Teleporter.”
“Especially as the election approached in 2020, the FITF/FBI overwhelmed Twitter with requests, sending lists of hundreds of problem accounts,” Taibbi reports. “There were so many government requests, Twitter employees had to improvise a system for prioritizing/triaging them,” he describes.
Taibbi says that it appeared as though the FBI had a team assigned to trawling posts for flagging, and began to demand information about particular users posting political content, which Twitter was “completely comfortable” providing, despite finding the FBI’s behavior “odd.”
“Many people wonder if Internet platforms receive direction from intelligence agencies about moderation of foreign policy news stories. It appears Twitter did, in some cases by way of the FITF/FBI,” Taibbi writes.
“The New York FBI office even sent requests for the ‘user IDs and handles’ of a long list of accounts named in a Daily Beast article. Senior executives say they are ‘supportive’ and ‘completely comfortable’ doing so,” Taibbi writes, referring to a Daily Beast article about right-wing media sharing alleged propaganda.
“It seemed to strike no one as strange that a ‘Foreign Influence’ task force was forwarding thousands of mostly domestic reports, along with the DHS, about the fringiest material,” he continues.
Taibbi explains how the government would push Twitter according to its theories about “foreign influence” that Twitter did not see borne out in its own data. Twitter would respond to the government’s “constant pressure” that there was no evidence for their assertions, however, Twitter still surrendered its independence.
“The #TwitterFiles show execs under constant pressure to validate theories of foreign influence – and unable to find evidence for key assertions,” Taibbi writes, providing a number of examples.
“‘Due to a lack of technical evidence on our end, I’ve generally left it be, waiting for more evidence,’ he says. ‘Our window on that is closing, given that government partners are becoming more aggressive on attribution’,” Taibbi reports, adding, “Translation: ‘more aggressive’ ‘government partners’ had closed Twitter’s ‘window’ of independence.”
The CIA did not respond for request for comment, Taibbi reports:
“The CIA has yet to comment on the nature of its relationship to tech companies like Twitter. Twitter had no input into anything I did or wrote. The searches were carried out by third parties, so what I saw could be limited.”