Matt Taibbi Profile picture
Dec 24, 2022 58 tweets 15 min read Read on X
1.THREAD: The Twitter Files
TWITTER AND "OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES"
After weeks of “Twitter Files” reports detailing close coordination between the FBI and Twitter in moderating social media content, the Bureau issued a statement Wednesday.
2.It didn’t refute allegations. Instead, it decried “conspiracy theorists” publishing “misinformation,” whose “sole aim” is to “discredit the agency.” Image
3.They must think us unambitious, if our “sole aim” is to discredit the FBI. After all, a whole range of government agencies discredit themselves in the #TwitterFiles. Why stop with one?
4.The files show the FBI acting as doorman to a vast program of social media surveillance and censorship, encompassing agencies across the federal government – from the State Department to the Pentagon to the CIA.
5.The operation is far bigger than the reported 80 members of the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), which also facilitates requests from a wide array of smaller actors - from local cops to media to state governments.
6.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. ImageImage
7.A chief end result was that thousands of official “reports” flowed to Twitter from all over, through the FITF and the FBI’s San Francisco field office.
8.On June 29th, 2020, San Francisco FBI agent Elvis Chan wrote to pair of Twitter execs asking if he could invite an “OGA” to an upcoming conference: Image
9.OGA, or “Other Government Organization,” can be a euphemism for CIA, according to multiple former intelligence officials and contractors. Chuckles one: “They think it's mysterious, but it's just conspicuous."
10.“Other Government Agency (the place where I worked for 27 years),” says retired CIA officer Ray McGovern.
11. It was an open secret at Twitter that one of its executives was ex-CIA, which is why Chan referred to that executive’s “former employer.”
12.The first Twitter executive abandoned any pretense to stealth and emailed that the employee “used to work for the CIA, so that is Elvis’s question.” Image
13.Senior legal executive Stacia Cardille, whose alertness stood out among Twitter leaders, replied, “I know” and “I thought my silence was understood.” Image
14.Cardille then passes on conference details to recently-hired ex-FBI lawyer Jim Baker. Image
15.“I invited the FBI and the CIA virtually will attend too,” Cardille says to Baker, adding pointedly: “No need for you to attend.”
16.The government was in constant contact not just with Twitter but with virtually every major tech firm.
17. These included Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, Reddit, even Pinterest, and many others. Industry players also held regular meetings without government.
18.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.” Image
19.The FITF meeting agendas virtually always included, at or near the beginning, an “OGA briefing,” usually about foreign matters (hold that thought). ImageImageImage
20. Despite its official remit being “Foreign Influence,” the FITF and the SF FBI office became conduit for mountains of domestic moderation requests, from state governments, even local police: Image
21. Many requests arrived via Teleporter, a one-way platform in which many communications were timed to vanish: Image
22.Especially as the election approached in 2020, the FITF/FBI overwhelmed Twitter with requests, sending lists of hundreds of problem accounts: ImageImageImage
23. Email after email came from the San Francisco office heading into the election, often adorned with an Excel attachment: Image
24. There were so many government requests, Twitter employees had to improvise a system for prioritizing/triaging them: Image
25. The FBI was clearly tailoring searches to Twitter’s policies. FBI complaints were almost always depicted somewhere as a “possible terms of service violation," even in the subject line: Image
26. Twitter executives noticed the FBI appeared to be aasigning personnel to look for Twitter violations.
27.“They have some folks in the Baltimore field office and at HQ that are just doing keyword searches for violations. This is probably the 10th request I have dealt with in the last 5 days,” remarked Cardille. Image
28. Even ex-FBI lawyer Jim Baker agreed: “Odd that they are searching for violations of our policies.” Image
29.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. ImageImage
30. 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: Image
31. “Foreign meddling” had been the ostensible justification for expanded moderation since platforms like Twitter were dragged to the Hill by the Senate in 2017: Image
32. Yet behind the scenes, Twitter executives struggled against government claims of foreign interference supposedly occurring on their platform and others: Image
33. The #TwitterFiles show execs under constant pressure to validate theories of foreign influence – and unable to find evidence for key assertions.
34. “Found no links to Russia,” says one analyst, but suggests he could “brainstorm” to “find a stronger connection.” Image
35. “Extremely tenuous circumstantial chance of being related,” says another. Image
36. “No real matches using the info,” says former Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth in another case, noting some links were “clearly Russian,” but another was a “house rental in South Carolina?” Image
37. In another case, Roth concludes a series of Venezuelan pro-Maduro accounts are unrelated to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, because they’re too high-volume: Image
38.The Venezuelans “were extremely high-volume tweeters… pretty uncharacteristic of a lot of the other IRA activity,” Roth says.
39. In a key email, news that the State Department was making a wobbly public assertion of Russian influence led an exec – the same one with the “OGA” past - to make a damning admission:
40. “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.” Image
41. Translation: “more aggressive” “government partners” had closed Twitter’s “window” of independence.
42. “Other Government Agencies” ended up sharing intelligence through the FBI and FITF not just with Twitter, but with Yahoo!, Twitch, Clouldfare, LinkedIn, even Wikimedia: Image
43. Former CIA agent and whistleblower John Kiriakou believes he recognizes the formatting of these reports.
44.“Looks right on to me,” Kiriakou says, noting that “what was cut off above [the “tearline”] was the originating CIA office and all the copied offices.”
45. 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.
46. These reports are far more factually controversial than domestic counterparts.
47. One intel report lists accounts tied to “Ukraine ‘neo-Nazi’ Propaganda.’” This includes assertions that Joe Biden helped orchestrate a coup in 2014 and “put his son on the board of Burisma.” ImageImage
48. Another report asserts a list of accounts accusing the “Biden administration” of “corruption” in vaccine distribution are part of a Russian influence campaign: Image
49. Often intelligence came in the form of brief reports, followed by long lists of accounts simply deemed to be pro-Maduro, pro-Cuba, pro-Russia, etc. This one batch had over 1000 accounts marked for digital execution: Image
50. One report says a site “documenting purported rights abuses committed by Ukrainians” is directed by Russian agents: Image
51. Intel about the shady origin of these accounts might be true. But so might at least some of the information in them – about neo-Nazis, rights abuses in Donbas, even about our own government. Should we block such material?
52. This is a difficult speech dilemma. Should the government be allowed to try to prevent Americans (and others) from seeing pro-Maduro or anti-Ukrainian accounts?
53. Often intel reports are just long lists of newspapers, tweets or YouTube videos guilty of “anti-Ukraine narratives”: ImageImageImage
54. Sometimes - not always -Twitter and YouTube blocked the accounts. But now we know for sure what Roth meant by “the Bureau (and by extension the IC).” Image
55. The line between “misinformation” and “distorting propaganda” is thin. Are we comfortable with so many companies receiving so many reports from a “more aggressive” government?
56.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.
Watch @bariweiss, @shellenbergerMD, @lhfang, and this space for more, on issues ranging from Covid-19 to Twitter's relationship to congress, and more.

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More from @mtaibbi

Jan 31
1. UK FILES EXTRA:
The Center for Countering Digital Hate, the IRS, and 501 (c)(3) status Image
2. The Center for Countering Digital Hate, or CCDH, is one of the most powerful players in the global "anti-disinformation" space, with a reputation for successfully pressuring Internet platforms to remove disfavored speech:
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3. CCDH is currently being sued by this platform, X, which has accused it of manipulating X data to make it "appear as if X is overwhelmed by harmful content":
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Read 18 tweets
Jan 3
1. FOIA FILES EXTRA:
STATE DEPARTMENT "TARGETING AMERICANS"?


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2. In late May and early June, 2019, a story hit the news: Donald Trump's State Department had been caught trolling people, including a Washington Post reporter, deemed insufficiently tough on Iran. Outrage was universal: Image
3. Similar stories at The Intercept and Guardian ripped State's Global Engagement Center for funding @IranDisinfo, which was said to have dubbed critics of of Trump's "Maximum Pressure" policy “‘mouthpieces,’ ‘apologists,’ ‘collaborators,’ and ‘lobbyists’” of Iran:
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Read 16 tweets
Nov 28, 2023
1. #CTIFiles3
SOCKPUPPETS AND SPIES
In the #CTIFiles written about today by @shellenberger and @galexybrane, anti-disinformation warriors and officials offer instruction on COINTELPRO-style spy tactics, against a target they knew was forbidden – the American public
2. WHAT WE NEED: “SOCKPUPPETS ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK”
While #TwitterFiles confirmed use of defensive tactics like censorship/deamplification, the #CTIFiles show “anti-disinformation” operatives planning to go on offense to disrupt speech, using fake personas and spy tactics Image
3. “YOUR SPY DISGUISE…LOCK YOUR SHIT DOWN.”
CTI League trainings instructed members on creating phony identities to infiltrate groups “like Boogaloo” Image
Read 20 tweets
Nov 28, 2023
1. #CTIFIles2
INTRODUCING THE #CTIFiles
The Deep State, With Its Pants Down Image
2. Tuesday, @Shellenberger, @galexybrane and I began releasing the CTI League (CTIL) Files. Provided by a whistleblower, they detail activities of a group ostensibly formed for the narrow purpose of fighting Covid misinfo. We quickly found they had wider interests:


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3. “I DON’T KNOW A LOT, BUT…”
The documents equal or exceed the #TwitterFiles in explosiveness, offering a devastating portrait of the digital censorship sector – from breathtaking authoritarian views to comic ignorance and lack of self-awareness.
Read 12 tweets
Nov 14, 2023
1. THE “UK FILES” SPECIAL REPORT
PART ONE: Internal Labour Party Documents Link “Center For Countering Digital Hate” to key Labour faction, fake news episodes

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2. On July 31, X/Twitter filed suit against the UK-based Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) for “a series of unlawful acts” it claimed were part of “a scare campaign to drive away advertisers from the X platform.”
pacermonitor.com/view/NV3GMHQ/X…
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3. U.S. media unfailingly described the suit as an attempt to evade “accountability” by attacking a “nonprofit” conducting “research” on “hate speech.” The Washington Post said X “without evidence” accused CCDH of ties to “potentially even foreign governments”:


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Read 20 tweets
Nov 9, 2023
1. TWITTER FILES EXTRA:
BIG BROTHER IS FLAGGING YOU
New House report and previously unpublished Twitter Files show: Stanford’s Election Integrity Partnership was a front for government censorship Image
2. On Monday, @Jim_Jordan's Weaponization of Government Subcommittee released a damning report on the “Weaponization of Disinformation.” Packed with subpoenaed documents, it focused on Stanford’s Election Integrity Partnership: judiciary.house.gov/sites/evo-subs…

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3. The report showed the EIP, when it flagged 2020 election content, was a stand-in for the Department of Homeland Security.

“We just set up an election integrity partnership at the request of DHS/CISA,” wrote Graham Brookie of Atlantic Council, an EIP partner: Image
Read 25 tweets

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