Twitter and the State, Part 2

Yves here. Tom Neuburger is trying to compensated for the mainstream media “Nothing to see here, move along” attitude towards the so-called Twitter Files. It is disconcerting to see how much this posture is working. Goodthinking members of the professional-managerial classes aren’t bothering to contest the notion that, for instance, the FBI was deeply involved in a propaganda campaign to dampen the reach of deemed-to-be-dangerous-to-Democrats individuals and stories. Even though most readers recognize that many soi-disant liberals are fine with authoritarianism as long as it backs their interest, it’s disconcerting to see how far they’ve gone with Twitter…and that no one is bothered. One wonders what if anything would shock their conscience.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

In a previous piece — “Twitter and the Security State” — I provided a unified list of links to all Twitter Files published to that time, releases 1 through 5. You can read or review them there if you like.

I also wrote that when there are new Twitter Files, I’d extend the list. Since then, three more have dropped. Scroll down for the links.

Twitter Files 6, by Matt Taibbi, contains a preliminary overview of the extent of connection between the FBI and Twitter.

As Taibbi has said in various interviews since (example here), they’re just scratching the surface in these connections. He’s said that quite a few other agencies are similarly involved, including DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and ODNI (the Office of the Director of National Intelligence), plus others that have not been named as yet.

A supplement, Twitter Files 6a, also by Taibbi, cites a federal interagency task force (FITC) grilling of Twitter about why it “had not observed much recent activity from official propaganda actors” when other sources apparently had. (The list of those sources, provided by the agency, is thin.)

TF6 is discussed by the team at Breaking Points

Twitter Files 7, by Michael Shellenberger, looks at the Hunter Biden Laptop story in detail. It’s quite long, but one of the gems of the piece occurs near the middle, where he provides background about the FBI’s prepping Twitter to “be very afraid” of foreign interference in the 2020 election while, as later court affidavits show, they knew they had no information at all that 2016 was going to be repeated. This occurred before the laptop story, and shows the general operation of the relationship, what Taibbi has called its “master-canine quality.”

My recommendation is to read TF7 for that especially, since my focus here is not on interference in 2020 — by Russians or our own Spook State — but on the entanglement between the aforementioned State and social media platforms.

After all, if you want to influence a nation, you go where the ears are assembled. And I’m convinced, as are many of you, that the Spook State is heavily involved in “guiding” the country, has been for decades, with the best of intentions, of course.

As David Swanson wrote in “The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies”:

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda.

More on that subject here.

I think it’s naive to think the Pentagon doesn’t propagandize at home, both directly and indirectly. For starters, consider the yearly half-trillion dollars at risk if the public fails to support the Pentagon budget.

The Twitter Files, Round 2

These are the latest Twitter Files since the first five were released. They extend the list collected here. (Emphasis added below.)

Twitter Files 6 — Twitter, The FBI Subsidiary
Matt Taibbi, December 16, 2022

3. Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive, as if it were a subsidiary.

4. Between January 2020 and November 2022, there were over 150 emails between the FBI and former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth.

5. Some are mundane, like San Francisco agent Elvis Chan wishing Roth a Happy New Year along with a reminder to attend “our quarterly call next week.” Others are requests for information into Twitter users related to active investigations.

6. But a surprisingly high number are requests by the FBI for Twitter to take action on election misinformation, even involving joke tweets from low-follower accounts. […]

Twitter Files 6a — Supplemental
Matt Taibbi, December 18, 2022

2. In July of 2020, San Francisco FBI agent Elvis Chan tells Twitter executive Yoel Roth to expect written questions from the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), the inter-agency group that deals with cyber threats.

3. The questionnaire authors seem displeased with Twitter for implying, in a July 20th “DHS/ODNI/FBI/Industry briefing,” that “you indicated you had not observed much recent activity from official propaganda actors on your platform.”

4. One would think that would be good news. The agencies seemed to feel otherwise. […]

Twitter Files 7 — The FBI & the Hunter Biden Laptop
Michael Shellenberger, December 19, 2022

18. It’s not the first time that Twitter’s Roth has pushed back against the FBI. In January 2020, Roth resisted FBI efforts to get Twitter to share data outside of the normal search warrant process.

19. Pressure had been growing:

“We have seen a sustained (If uncoordinated) effort by the IC [intelligence community] to push us to share more info & change our API policies. They are probing & pushing everywhere they can (including by whispering to congressional staff).”

20. Time and again, FBI asks Twitter for evidence of foreign influence & Twitter responds that they aren’t finding anything worth reporting.

“[W]e haven’t yet identified activity that we’d typically refer to you (or even flag as interesting in the foreign influence context).” […]

Why Assemble These Lists?

As I’ve said many times, my interest is not to defend either Musk or Trump against whatever their sins may be.

My interest is in the facts — in particular, the facts of the entanglement (a careful word) between our so-called security establishment and its American targets, by which I mean the public.

I also worry, as do a great many others, about a coup in the United States. I’m just looking where others aren’t.

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  1. Joe Well

    >>”they had no information at all that 2016 was going to be repeated.

    And what exactly was “2016”? Is this an implicit acceptance of Russiagate? (Serious question.)

    Otherwise an excellent summary.

    1. Thomas Neuburger

      Is this an implicit acceptance of Russiagate? (Serious question.)

      From point of view of the speakers, the FBI and Twitter, yes. Russiagate is assumed to be true.


      1. britzklieg

        hmmm… not clear. reads like the ever-present disclaimer these days to make sure the reader doesn’t think the writer is a Putinist.

      2. Joe Well

        Thank you for answering! Another serious question: I thought the FBI leaned Republican? Or has that all changed in the last 5 years or so?

        1. flora

          I think the FBI leans elite financial interests. That used to be the GOP but the Dems are now equally elite financial interest. ymmv

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Thank you for bringing that up. It struck me as well since the only actual “nothingburger” related to this whole story is that the Russians did “something” in 2016.

  2. The Rev Kev

    After 9/11, national security became a big thing and the universities were happy to set up courses in that subject which for them were quite lucrative. With the establishment of the US Department of Homeland Security, a lot of these new graduates ended up there or in one of the subsidiaries – like the FBI. I wondered back then at how jobs could be found for them eventually as you can only expand the national security estate so much and last I heard, about 5 million Americans have security clearances. I guess from the Twitter files we are seeing now how this plays out.

    So it seems that Twitter was choked with FBI alumni that had their own community and who in essence never really quit the FBI. It’s like their FBI career was really only some sort of post-graduate course to enable them to take up positions of influence in the media on behalf of the FBI. I imagine the same is true of the CIA and you see a lot of top ex-spooks end up in CNN & MSNBC. Maybe an unofficial deal was made with some of these big Silicon Valley corporations. That they would be allowed to grow and expand – with government help & subsidies – so long as they played ball with the national security estate. And what we are seeing at Twitter was how this was done in practice.

    1. MartyH

      “9/11” … can we consider the possibility that Kennedy’s assassination might also be a valid starting point?

  3. KD

    We can’t call it “Illiberal Democracy” because Orban already owns that territory, I’m thinking Democratic Illiberalism? In Hungary, illiberalism is harnessed in the interests of the the Demos. In Democratic Illiberalism, illiberalism is harnessed in the interests of the Democratic Party Nomenklatura and the Deep State.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Why not call it what it is?

      Fascism. Comes complete with the standard “Others” package although imo these “others” are quite hard to pin down. To become an official “Other” all you have to do is disagree with one of the thousand points of nitpickery established at any time by anyone in the D party “leadership” or one of their trusted Bluecheck allies. I got “othered” for asking Nikole Hannah-Jones what she was doing in support of the John Deere strike (over 3/4 million negative tweets flowed my way) and only later discovered it was because NHJ was on Deere’s payroll as a consultant.

      And so it goes. The new “Others” aren’t easily defined except by their actions, but ye shall know them by their opposition to Righteous Intentions on whose behalf our leaders grift.

  4. Adrian D.

    Much of this has been going on in (more or less) plain sight of followers of certain sources over the last few years (sources which of courses include NC). Alan Macleod and Mintpress News has been following some of Twitter, Facebook & Google’s hires over the last few years and it’s just as you may expect – plenty of NATO, a lot of ex-Israeli ‘personnel’, Bellingcat types (Ben Nimmo is employed by FB) and so on. This will, I’m certain, continue despite this recent furore.

  5. Lex

    Soft totalitarianism is best achieved by the national security state taking power quietly. Now whether it can be fully implemented in the US is another question, but soft totalitarianism would never look quite like the platonic ideal of totalitarianism the common person holds in their head. It doesn’t need overt power so it can dispense with some of the trappings we associate with totalitarianism. In reality, the coup probably already occurred. We’re an intelligence agency state. Frankly, trump was a threat. Not because he was actually against it or would bring it down. He’s not very smart and deeply corrupt. It was that he couldn’t be trusted to color inside the lines or not say the quiet parts out loud.

  6. Tom Doak

    What I don’t understand is, where is the First Amendment in all of this?

    The government usually sidesteps things like deplatforming people, because the 1A doesn’t apply to private companies. But if the government is shown to be directly advising those companies to “consider” deplatforming people, is that somehow okay?

    1. Questa Nota

      The ends justify the means.
      That has been their tacit mantra.
      Now those means have dramatically greater reach and impact.

      Public softened up through 1990s economic destruction, off-shoring, Wall Streeting.
      Then 9/11 and Patriot Act.
      Exploit some handy new social media capabilities.
      Voilà, Amendment, Shmandment.

      1. spud

        yep, 1993 onwards. article one, section eight was gutted by free trade. the origins of the patriot act started under bill clinton, the jim crows laws he resurrected, coupled with the slashed social safety net left the idea of free speech in tatters.

        when fascism came to america, it was sold as free trade spreads democracy and eradicates poverty.

  7. Northeaster

    The Antiterror Alphabet Agency came to my home over the Summer for “mean tweets”.

    They even admitted my tweets were in the realm of 1A (as caustic as they were), usually political in nature since I follow my state/federal pols.

    I’m Captain Nobody, so if they’re showing up at my home, what are they doing to everyone else?

    Their last question: “Do you love your country?” – I’m a Vet btw. Good grief.

    1. jan

      That is crazy. And intimidation I’d say. And what a stupid question to ask, “Do you love your country?”.
      As if criticizing means not loving your country. You could argue the opposite.

    2. Joe Well

      Did you get a lawyer before you talked to them?

      Edit: I realize this is prohibitively expensive for possibly most people, just wondering since it’s the standard advice.

      1. Northeaster

        My first question: “Am I under arrest”

        When they said no, I knew my boundaries. After that last question, I told them I’m done. They gave me their card/phone number if I want to add anything (not a joke).

        I did run it by a criminal defense attorney, and the theories we came up with: 1) They’ve been doing such a bad job for so long, they’re going after everyone 2) Tapping me on the shoulder 3) A congressional staff member got offended at what I said and reported it anyways.

        Who knows. I’m a little less caustic now, but as I told them, I’m to busy running a business and have a family to support to deal with this crap.

        This was certainly a gov flex. Total bullshit imo.

  8. Buzz Meeks

    Of course claims of foreign interference in US elections never goes near who really interferes with elections. Israel, AIPAC and the ADL.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      It’s mean of you to leave the Democrats off your list but in truth, once they’ve rigged their primaries Democrats seem to lose interest in cheating the vote lest they accidentally acquire a working majority.

  9. pjay

    Thank you for calling attention to this crucial issue. As you say, it is ignored by most of the mainstream media. As for the Fox News framing, that will end up as the usual partisan sheep-herding without digging deeper into what’s really at stake.

    Regarding the latter, your last line may be the most important:

    “I also worry, as do a great many others, about a coup in the United States. I’m just looking where others aren’t.”

    All *real* coups involve a significant segment of a country’s National Security Establishment. Trump had *no* real support by anyone who mattered within this Establishment. On the contrary, many of the latter were actively engaged in framing him as a treasonous Russian agent in order to overturn the 2016 election – a four-year rolling “coup,” if you will.

    The term “useful idiot” was invented for today’s so-called “liberals” cheering the censorship and disinformation by our intelligence community.

    1. Alex Cox

      A coup can’t happen without the backing of the military. As examples, consider last week in Peru, or the US in 1963.

    2. Gulag

      If you listen carefully to some of the recent rants/analysis by Tucker Carlson and Miranda Devine they often sound as if they are actively participating in a 1967 meeting of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society)–the far left political organization that primarily organized against the Vietnam war.

  10. mrsyk

    I listened to some coverage of this on NPR yesterday. Much pearl clutching and wailing lamentations over the death of free speech. The hypocrisy was laughable. I could only draw one conclusion.
    Musk is the new Orange Man. Orange man bad.

  11. flora

    Thanks for this post. I’ll add the link to Lee Fang’s Twitter Files Part 8.


    *How Twitter Quietly Aided the Pentagon’s Covert Online PsyOp Campaign*

    Despite promises to shut down covert state-run propaganda networks, Twitter docs show that the social media giant directly assisted the U.S. military’s influence operations.

  12. Carolinian

    What I’d like to know is whether the same FBI entanglement exists for Google, Microsoft etc. We already knew about MSM connections to the spooks and assumed outfits like Facebook and Twitter were spybots and manipulated. To be sure there’s always been a suspicion that almost anything that goes on our computers is a party line As with Twitter having the truth finally exposed would be useful.

    In other words sunshine to disinfect.

  13. polar donkey

    I told liberal friends when Trump derangement syndrome just started cranking up that the Democrats sold their soul to the FBI and intelligence agencies. They just looked at me like I was crazy. Throw in Covid, January 6th, along with Ukraine, and now these people’s minds are broken. Monsters everywhere and need the state to protect them. The only democracy and free speech they believe is theirs. Journalists like Taibbi and Greenwald, who once were heroes, are traitors. Twitter is just not talked about. All those virtue signaling liberals who bought Teslas are having severe cases of cognitive dissonance. I’m amazed at how easily and quickly my liberal friends just dumped their “beliefs”. I find it is easier to talk to Trumpers now about politics. I just avoid politics all together with liberal friends.

  14. Joe Well

    Speculation: will other countries’ governments now use this collusion as grounds to prohibit Twitter? Possibly all US-based social media?

  15. Fred1

    I wonder if these disclosures will at a minimum erode the private search exception to the 4th Amendment at least insofar as a private search conducted by a big tech platform.

  16. Kouros

    More material for Zephyr Teachout to update her book “Corruption in America From Benjamin Franklins Snuff Box to Citizens United”

  17. Gulag

    I believe that it can be persuasively argued that the national security state (in particular the NSA, CIA and FBI through the creation and operation of its data base surveillance apparatus (PRISM, Cloud, Mainway (contact chaining) by 2011 had the technological capacity (both then and even more so now) to profoundly change the balance of power between government and the governed.

    It was probably all over for liberal democracy at that point.

    Barton Gellman has argued this in his 2020 book “Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State.”

    Basically we are now in a situation where the power gradient of citizen to government has become too great. We seem to presently exist in a turnkey tyranny, which Frank Church warned about way back in 1975.

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