Feds shouldn’t overreach in social media


The Twitter Files are making news and making history, simultaneously.

Elon Musk, who bought the publicly traded social media company and took it private in October, was sharply criticized by employees he fired, and others, for his decision to change content moderation policies. He responded on Twitter by writing, “Twitter has failed in trust & safety for a very long time and has interfered in elections.” He pledged that that the new Twitter “will be far more effective, transparent and even-handed.”

It was then that he opened the company’s internal communications for searches and reporting by independent journalists, who examined emails and messages between Twitter employees and from government agencies to the company. And they posted copies of the documents on Twitter for the world to see.

Historians call this type of material “primary sources.” These are the original documents that recorded events as they happened, written by the participants themselves. The documents show that the U.S. government engaged in a secret and wide-ranging pressure campaign to censor and suppress speech in America, something that is forbidden by the First Amendment.

Musk’s comment about election interference may have referred to the effort by the FBI and other government agencies to falsely inform journalists and social media platforms that emails relating to Biden family business deals with entities in China and other countries were fake, the product of a Russian disinformation campaign. The documents in the Twitter files show that government actors pushed this untruthful storyline for months, repeatedly warning that the intelligence community had “assessed” that there would be a drop of Russian disinformation related to Hunter Biden, likely in October.

In fact, the FBI had taken possession of Hunter Biden’s laptop computer late in 2019, by serving a subpoena on the computer repair shop where the laptop had been abandoned. The emails found on the laptop were not Russian disinformation.

But with journalists and social media companies primed by the FBI’s months of misleading warnings, the New York Post’s publication, just weeks before the November 2020 election, of a report on the contents of the Biden emails resulted not in widespread news coverage and follow-up of the truthful story, but instead, widespread reports that it was likely Russian disinformation. Twitter locked the New York Post’s account and prevented the link from being shared.

We learned from the Twitter Files that the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies held regular meetings with social media companies and news organizations, and that they made so many requests for takedowns of content that by early 2021, taxpayers had reimbursed Twitter more than $3.4 million for staff time.

At the FBI’s behest, Twitter censored or “de-amplified” the speech of Americans who were discussing the 2020 election, the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.

This week, FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and said the FBI has made “significant strides” in the effort to foster “collaboration between the private sector and the government.” Wray also met privately with global banking executives about cybersecurity.

So it’s a good time to point out that the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, requires specific warrants, and bans the government from rummaging through the “papers and effects” of Americans. Congress must make it very clear that “collaboration” between the FBI and the private sector may not infringe any of the rights of Americans.

Share the Post:

Related Posts

Generated by Feedzy