A Big Tech lawsuit has uncovered one of the most disturbing revelations yet about social media companies’ collusion with law enforcement agencies to police speech on the Internet. A former FBI agent, Elvis Chan, revealed during the court hearings that the bureau held weekly meetings with major social media companies prior to the 2020 and 2022 elections.
On Wednesday, the court transcript of former FBI agent Elvis Chan’s testimony was released and corroborated earlier reports.
“Mr. Chan, or Agent Chan, who do you recall on the social media platform side participating in these — in these working group meetings that you have been testifying about from 2020 and 2022?”
“The companies that I remember attending the meetings are Facebook; Microsoft; Google; Twitter; Yahoo!, which have been known as Verizon Media at the time; Wikimedia Foundation and Reddit,” Agent Chan said.
Chan was then asked why the FBI was participating in these meetings.
“And why are you included in particular?”
“The reason that I attend these meetings is because the way the FBI works is FBI field offices are responsible for maintaining day-t0-day relationships with the companies that are headquartered in their area of responsibility, which I may occasionally abbreviate AOR,” Chan responded. “And all of the companies that have been listed, with the exception of Microsoft, are all headquartered in San Francisco’s territory.”
Chan also testified that he was in regular contact with Facebook’s Steven Siegel and Twitter’s Yoel Roth, as reported by Lee Fang.
FBI agent Elvis Chan, at the San Francisco field office for the agency, testified that he was in regular contact with Facebook's Steven Siegel and Twitter’s Yoel Roth. pic.twitter.com/oIoeRQ5STR
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) December 6, 2022
Yoel Roth, formerly Twitter’s Head of Trust and Safety, was recently terminated by Elon Musk, as was Twitter’s General Counsel Jim Baker, who was formerly the FBI’s General Counsel.
Chan also related the the U.S. government is in regular correspondence with major social media platforms regarding elections; namely, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (or CISA).
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, one of the attorneys general that filed the lawsuit, earlier disclosed an overview of FBI agent Elvis Chan’s testimony on ‘weekly meetings’ about censoring Internet posts ahead of the 2020 election.
“In our deposition of FBI agent Elvis Chan on Tuesday, we found that the FBI plays a big role in working with social media companies to censor speech – from weekly meetings with social media companies ahead of the 2020 election to asks for account takedowns,” Schmitt wrote in a Twitter thread.
“Chan, the FBI’s FITF, and senior CISA officials had meetings with social media companies in the lead-up to the 2020 election, in which Chan personally told the social media companies that there could potentially be a Russian ‘hack and leak’ operation shortly before the election,” he continued. “Those meetings were initially quarterly, then monthly, then weekly heading into the 2020 election.”
“Chan stated that the FBI regularly sent social media companies lists of URLs and social media accounts that should be taken down because they were disinformation from ‘malign foreign influence operations’,” Schmitt went on. “The FBI then inquired whether the platforms have taken down the content. On many occasions, the platforms took down the accounts flagged by the FBI.”
Chan testified because of the agent’s extensive knowledge of the FBI’s interaction with social media companies, the judge in the case stated.
“Chan had authority over cybersecurity issues for the FBI in the San Francisco, California region which includes the headquarters of major social-media platforms and played a critical role for the FBI in coordinating with social-media platforms related to censorship,” Judge Terry A. Doughty wrote in his court order.
“Even if Chan played no role in the Hunter Biden laptop communication issue, he may have knowledge of who did, and his deposition is nonetheless warranted,” the judge aded. “If Chan played no role in the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story, then such information will be made clear in his deposition.”
Last Friday night, Twitter released a trove of internal documentation about the social media platform’s coordination with Biden campaign staff and DNC officials ahead of the 2020 election. But one thing was missing, as pointed out by New York Post columnist Miranda Devine.
“Elon Musk half-delivered on his promise to tell all about Twitter’s censorship of The New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story before the 2020 election,” Devine said. “What was missing were details of specific warnings we know the FBI made to Twitter about a Russian ‘hack and leak operation’ involving Hunter during their weekly meetings with top executives of the social media giant in the days and weeks before The Post published its exclusive bombshell.”
“We know that FBI Supervisory Special Agent Elvis Chan testified Tuesday in a lawsuit against the Biden administration brought by Republican attorneys that he organized those weekly meetings with Twitter and Facebook in San Francisco for as many as seven Washington-based FBI agents in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election,” she noted.
“Taibbi said he had been shown no evidence of the collusion between the FBI and Twitter that we know occurred,” she added.
“Although several sources recalled hearing about a ‘general’ warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence — that I’ve seen — of any government involvement in the laptop story,” Taibbi remarked.
But we know from Mark Zuckerberg’s interview with Joe Rogan, and subsequent testimony before Congress, that the FBI was deeply involved in policing information ahead of the 2020 election, especially the Hunter Biden laptop story.
“So, we took a different path than Twitter,” Zuckerberg said. “I mean, basically the background here is the FBI, I think, basically came to us some, some folks on our team and was like, ‘Hey just so you know, like you should be on high alert. There was… we thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. We have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump of — that’s similar to that. So just be vigilant.’”
“So our protocol is different from Twitter’s,” he went on. “What Twitter did is they said ‘you can’t share this at all.’ We didn’t do that. What we do is we have — if something’s reported to us as potentially misinformation, important misinformation, we also use this third party fact-checking program, ’cause we don’t want to be deciding what’s true and false. And for, I think it was five or seven days when it was basically being being determined, whether it was false, the distribution on Facebook was decreased, but people were still allowed to share it. So you could still share it. You could still consume it.”
“Can we say the distribution is decreased… how does that work?” Rogan asked.
“It… basically the ranking in newsfeed was a little bit less, so fewer people saw it than would’ve otherwise,” Zuck replied.
“By what percentage?”
“I don’t know off the top of my head,” Zuck answered. “But it’s meaningful. But I mean, basically a lot of people were still able to share it. We got a lot of complaints that was the case. You know, obviously, this is a hyper-political issue. So, depending on what side of the political spectrum, you either think we didn’t censor it enough or censored it way too much. But we weren’t sort of as black and white about it as Twitter, we just kind of thought, ‘Hey look, if the FBI — which I still view as a legitimate institution in this country, it’s like very professional law enforcement — they come to us and tell us that we need to be on guard about something.’ Then I want to take that seriously.”
“Did they specifically say you need to be on guard about that story?” Rogan asked.
“No, I don’t remember if it was that specifically,” Zuckerberg said. “But… it basically fit the pattern.”
But Facebook wasn’t done doing the Democratic Party favors during the 2016 election. Multi-billionaire owner Mark Zuckerberg spent hundreds of millions on “Zuckerberg boxes” that disproportionately benefited Democrats, as the Thomas More Society documented in a 2020 report.
Thus, Twitter, Facebook, and Big Tech companies like it, acted like censors for the United States government instead of private, independent companies. The actions raise serious questions about constitutional violations of Americans’ rights, respect for freedom of the press, and 2020 election interference.
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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.