House Republicans are launching a probe into the FBI’s involvement in censoring conservative speech online, alleged abuses of federal power that were revealed in Elon Musk’s “Twitter Files.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Twitter’s internal documents raised concerns that “the FBI maintained this relationship with Twitter apart from any particularized need for a specific investigation, but as a permanent and ongoing surveillance operation.”
“From disclosed Twitter documents and publicly available information, it is clear the FBI worked extensively with Twitter to advance censorship of certain speech on Twitter’s platform,” he wrote in a letter Friday to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray.“These revelations sadly reinforce our deep concerns about the FBI’s misconduct and its hostility to the First Amendment.”
The letter was also signed by Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the top Republican on the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Earlier this month, Mr. Musk began revealing Twitter’s left-wing bent that led to the censorship of conservative viewpoints, the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop computer story just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, and the unprecedented decision to permanently ban then-President Trump from the platform.
The Twitter Files have also revealed the extent to which the platform worked with the Biden campaign and federal agencies to moderate speech.
Matt Taibbi, one of several independent journalists given access to Mr. Musk’s vault of Twitter documents, revealed details of Twitter’s push to suppress ahead of the 2020 election posts of news stories that exposed then-candidate Joe Biden’s links to his son’s embarrassing and potentially illegal business ventures in foreign countries.
He reported that the Biden team had a direct line to Twitter executives that they used to silence users.
“By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine,” Mr. Taibbi wrote. “One executive would write to another: ‘More to review from the Biden team.’ The reply would come back: ‘Handled.’”
Those requests came from well-connected actors from both sides of the aisle. Twitter also honored requests from the Trump White House.
“This system wasn’t balanced,” Mr. Taibbi wrote. “It was based on contacts. Because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, there were more channels, more ways to complain, open to the left (well, Democrats) than the right.”
Subsequent installments of the Twitter Files disclosed the close coordination between social media companies and federal officials to moderate content.
In one internal Slack exchange disclosed, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, wrote that he met with federal officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
During those meetings, Twitter executives were alerted to rumors that Hunter Biden would be the target of a “hack and leak operation,” a warning which, in part, led social media platforms to suppress The New York Post’s October 2020 story about information gleaned from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop computer. The information refuted Mr. Biden’s claims that he didn’t know about and wasn’t involved in his son’s overseas business deals.
The FBI took possession of the laptop in December 2019, 10 months before the newspaper published materials from the computer, raising questions as to whether the bureau sought to discredit materials they had already authenticated.
Internal communications also revealed that the FBI reported concerns about specific posts related to the 2020 election, seeking action from Twitter employees.
In one instance, Twitter employees decided to apply a “Learn how voting is safe and secure” note to one post reported by the FBI.
More than two-thirds of voters think the Twitter Files’ revelations warrant further investigation by Congress, according to a new poll that shows concerns about censorship of conservative voices on social media extend far beyond the Republican base.
A recent survey by the Harvard Center for American Political Studies and Harris Insights & Analytics found that 71% of Republicans, 65% of Democrats and 68% of independents think Congress and the FBI should thoroughly investigate potential civil and First Amendment violations by Twitter.
The survey, which polled 1,851 registered voters between Dec. 14-15, found that 64% of voters think Twitter “engaged in political censorship” during the 2020 election. That majority includes 59% of Democrats.
The signatories to Friday’s letter are demanding that the FBI hand over documents related to its coordination with Twitter including all documents and communication between Twitter employees and the agency as well as a full account of all funds transferred by the FBI to Twitter.
The lawmakers are requesting the documents to be turned over to Congress no later than Jan. 11.