Twitter continues to reveal the extensive censorship system created by government and corporate officials despite continued efforts from the left to drain the company of revenue. (The latest company to cancel Twitter is Ben & Jerry’s which objected to the company’s greater protections for free speech as allowing harmful views to be heard on social media). However, Elon Musk is undeterred and has continued to reduce censorship on the platform while letting the public see what the government has been doing behind the scenes on social media. The latest disclosure is astonishing. The FBI not only targeted individuals that it wanted banned for dissenting views, but it also was enlisted by Ukraine to target its own critics.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has long been criticized for arresting opponents, shutting down opposing parties, and extensive censorship. It was not previously known that the FBI assisted it in the censorship effort, including targeting a number of journalists in America and abroad.
Journalist Aaron Maté reported that the FBI served as an intermediary on these efforts to censor critics.
In March 2022, an FBI Special Agent sent Twitter a list of accounts on behalf of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ukraine’s main intelligence agency. The accounts, the FBI wrote, “are suspected by the SBU in spreading fear and disinformation.” In an attached memo, the SBU asked Twitter to remove the accounts and hand over their user data.
The Ukrainian government’s FBI-enabled targets extend to members of the media. The SBU list that the FBI provided to Twitter included my name and Twitter profile. In its response to the FBI, Twitter agreed to review the accounts for “inauthenticity” but raised concerns about the inclusion of me and other “American and Canadian journalists.”
Previous disclosures have shown an extensive censorship and blacklisting effort. Despite such evidence of direct government censorship efforts, Democratic members continue to oppose attempts to expose the full scope of such government programs and grants. Witnesses who testified about the dangers of such censorship efforts were even denounced as “Putin lovers” and apologists for insurrectionists and racists by leading Democrats.
Even with the targeting of journalists on behalf of a foreign government, most reporters have shrugged and declined to cover this story. It is another example of a de facto state media where journalists support a government by consent rather than coercion.
This would seem a major story on how U.S. citizens are sending tens of billions to Ukraine as Ukraine seeks the censorship of U.S. citizens and others for their criticism or viewpoints.
Twitter has itself been criticized for censorship material under pressure from China. Those are deeply concerning allegations, though it is clear that the level of censorship on the platform has been dramatically reduced with Musk’s removal of much of the corporate censorship infrastructure.
Democrats in Congress are even more open in opposing any investigation into the censorship, particularly after past releases implicated figures like Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Cal.) in targeting critics. The Democratic leadership has opposed any investigations for years. They have even refused to accept the email evidence. When I testified on the Twitter Files, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) criticized me for offering “legal opinions” without actually working at Twitter. As I have noted, it is like saying that a witness should not discuss the contents of the Pentagon Papers unless he worked at the Pentagon. It was particularly bizarre because I was asked about the content of the Twitter Files. The content — like the content of the Pentagon Papers — are “facts.” The implication of those facts are opinions.
Members like Wasserman Schultz will likely continue to refuse to acknowledge these new emails. However, the public has repeatedly shown in polls that they want transparency on the censorship efforts.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that companies like Facebook have steadfastly refused to be as transparent as Twitter, which is smaller than other social media companies. These other companies likely have equally, if not greater, systems of coordination with the federal government. However, those executives are not allowing the public to know how their companies engaged in censorship by surrogate.