According to a report by former Intercept journalist Lee Fang, the FBI is reportedly urging Facebook and other social media companies to censor what Ukrainian officials deem “disinformation,” even if the information in question is not false.
Fang’s article for his newsletter includes comments made by llia Vitiuk, the head of Ukraine’s Department of Cyber Information Security.
“Once we have a trace or evidence of disinformation campaigns via Facebook or other resources that are from the U.S., we pass this information to the FBI, along with writing directly to Facebook,” said llia Vitiuk, head of the Department of Cyber Information Security in the Security Service of Ukraine.
“We asked FBI for support to help us with Meta, to help us with others, and sometimes we get good results with that,” noted Vitiuk. “We say, ‘Okay, this was the person who was probably Russia’s influence.’”
“When people ask me, ‘How do you differentiate whether it is fake or true?’ Indeed it is very difficult in such an informational flow,” said Vitiuk. “I say, ‘Everything that is against our country, consider it a fake, even if it’s not.’ Right now, for our victory, it is important to have that kind of understanding, not to be fooled.”
During the Trump era, the FBI and NGOs with former FBI officials were involved in social media censorship, persuading platforms to crack down on supposed “Russian” disinformation networks that were actually composed of American Trump supporters.
That has led to significant scrutiny of government agencies, with congressional investigations, lawsuits by red states, and the Twitter Files — released with the help of Twitter CEO Elon Musk — revealing their role in promoting social media censorship.
The files reveal Twitter’s decision-making process around high-profile content moderation actions such as the banning of Donald Trump in January 2020 and the removal of a New York Post article on Hunter Brandon’s smutty, revealing laptop. Critics rightfully accused Twitter of censorship, and the Twitter Files give insight into the platform’s content policies and tools used to deal with accounts or tweets that violated its policies.
One of the major revelations in the Twitter Files is the existence of Twitter’s “visibility filtering” tool, which allows the platform to selectively hide tweets and accounts from users without notifying them. The tool has been used to suppress content that Twitter deemed inappropriate or misleading. The files show debates and disagreements among executives at Twitter regarding content policies and the use of the visibility filtering tool.
The New York Post articles on Hunter Brandon’s laptop are another significant event detailed in the Twitter Files. Twitter initially blocked access to the article, citing a policy against sharing hacked materials. However, the platform faced backlash for what some saw as an attempt to censor the story. The Twitter Files reveal that Twitter executives were divided on how to handle the situation, with some employees writing back “handled” to requests from “connected actors” of both parties to delete tweets.
The Twitter Files also shed light on Twitter’s decision to ban Trump from the platform. The files show that the decision was made after Trump’s tweets were deemed to have incited violence at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. Twitter executives discussed the possibility of banning Trump for years before ultimately taking action.
In addition to providing insight into Twitter’s content moderation policies, the Twitter Files also include a glossary of terms for readers who may be unfamiliar with government agency names. The glossary is a useful resource for those looking to understand the inner workings of Twitter and how it interacts with government entities.
Finally, the files revealed how the major social media platforms were being pressured by government agencies to censor conservatives, and how many times the platforms voluntarily went along with the censorship.