‘Twitter Files’ show FBI needs housecleaning

Hate Crimes FBI Data
FILE – An FBI seal is seen on a wall on Aug. 10, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. Hate crimes in the U.S. remained relatively high last year after a surge not seen in nearly two decades, according to a new FBI report Monday, Dec. 12. But experts say is actually an undercount because thousands of police departments, including some of the country’s largest, didn’t report their data. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) Charlie Neibergall/AP

‘Twitter Files’ show FBI needs housecleaning

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The “Twitter Files” released by owner Elon Musk are not just about the social media platform itself. The most important revelation so far is that the FBI used Twitter (among other online platforms) to spread disinformation that interfered with the operation of a free press and to violate the civil rights of individual Americans. There needs to be a cull to rid the agency of everyone involved in these malignant operations.

Most notoriously, in the months leading up to the 2020 election, federal agents assiduously warned social media companies and even Republican senators about what they said was a false story about newsworthy revelations on the laptop of Hunter Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee’s son. The story was true, yet FBI agents knowingly claimed that it was part of foreign disinformation. That didn’t pass the laugh test even at the time, but it allowed Joe Biden, the Democrats, and their army of handmaidens in the left-wing news media to ignore and squash the story.

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Congress is not allowed under the Constitution to make laws “abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” The executive branch, therefore, has no legitimate power to prevent political news stories from circulating. Its exercise of this power was, therefore, illegitimate.

This is what makes Friday’s installment of the Twitter Files so concerning. The FBI, dominated by Democratic partisans, has been running a disinformation and speech suppression operation behind the scenes. The glimpse offered by the Twitter Files seems likely to indicate something much more extensive, presumably extending to all major social media platforms, other parts of the government, and perhaps some news media.

Speech suppression is perhaps more concerning than disinformation because it targeted ordinary people. According to journalist Matt Taibbi, the feds used Twitter in a “master-canine” fashion, demanding that specific tweets be flagged as disinformation. Agents corresponded frequently with Twitter, especially to get the platform to “take action on election misinformation.”

One account given the third degree was @ClaireFosterPhD, whose offense was to joke about not counting the votes of unmasked voters.

Once they received their marching orders from the FBI, Twitter employees sought pretexts to filter, ban, or suspend accounts, even those with few followers and little influence. No one was confused about whether these users were “foreign malign influence actors,” as the FBI’s mendacious explanatory statement put it. This was just the FBI’s pretext for using a private company to suppress individual citizens’ freedom of speech online.

The Supreme Court has made clear over many decades that, with narrow exceptions involving such things as defamation or criminal incitement, the government has no authority to police speech — not even to prevent disinformation or hate speech.

The federal agents’ disinformation campaign was not merely a massive embarrassment to an agency beset by scandals — it was an operation against the public and against the free press. It was probably illegal. The nadir was when agents told social media companies that a true story was false and needed to be suppressed. They even went to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and told him a similar tale about the Hunter Biden laptop — a dishonest, preemptive effort to frame real news as fake.

The fact that Twitter is a private company is irrelevant. The government is not allowed to suppress news or censor people whether directly or by delegating the dirty work to a private company.

Nor may it suppress conversation online because someone in officialdom thinks it might be “disinformation.” The Supreme Court has made it clear that the First Amendment precludes government content moderation. It is especially repellent that public discussion should be moderated by the FBI, which has a lengthy recent record of lying to the public, to judges, and to Congress.

The Twitter Files point to a need for a thorough housecleaning at the FBI, which should include prosecutions for abuse of power. The 80-member FBI social media task force, if any of its members are still employed after this housecleaning, needs to be refocused on fighting cybercrime and online sexual exploitation — not on covert disinformation campaigns and policing the opinions and jokes of private citizens.

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