The FBI may have violated the First Amendment by asking Twitter to moderate certain speech, as revealed in a recent “Twitter Files” statement, constitutional experts told Fox News Digital.
An installment of Twitter Files posted by Substack journalist Matt Taibbi last week revealed that former Twitter security chief Yoel Roth was apparently attending weekly meetings with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence to moderate misinformation ahead of the 2020 election.
In October 2020, just weeks before the election, the FBI asked Twitter to take action after it flagged two tweets related to suspected voter fraud, according to a screenshot of internal communications posted by Taibbi. Twitter responded by placing a hashtag that read “Learn how voting is safe and secure” on one of the tweets from an Indiana Republican politician, according to the screenshot.
The screenshots also showed Twitter’s current policy director, Nick Pickles, and a marketing employee discussing how the company detects misinformation in part through “partnerships” with the FBI and DHS.
JAMES BAKER, TWITTER LAWYER FIRED BY ELON MUSK, PLAYED KEY ROLE IN FBI’S TRUMP-RUSSIA COLLUSION INVESTIGATION
To further complicate matters, Jim Baker, former Twitter deputy general counsel, landed his top job at the social media giant after playing a key role in pushing the Trump-Russia collusion narrative during his time at the FBI. where he served as general counsel.
Twitter’s new CEO, Elon Musk, fired Baker this month over concerns about his “possible role in suppressing information important to public dialogue.” It was later reported that Baker was involved in investigating, without Musk’s knowledge, the first installment of Twitter files detailing the company’s suppression of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story before the 2020 elections.
Baker’s name appeared on Twitter Files due to internal company discussions about the laptop’s history, during which he concluded: “It’s reasonable for us to assume” that the laptop’s story stems from hacked materials despite protests. from other employees.
The White House said Friday that it was not involved in pressuring Twitter to censor information and that no one had been in contact with Baker before his firing.
“It’s up to private companies to make these kinds of decisions,” insisted White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “We were not involved. I can say that we were not involved.”
National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby similarly told Fox News on Sunday that the Biden administration is not “directing private social media companies on how to manage their content.”
“It is up to these social media companies to determine how they are going to manage their content,” he said.
It’s a stark contrast to last year, when White House press secretary Jen Psaki bragged that the White House was “in regular contact with social media platforms,” working to combat the spread of misinformation about COVID-19.
“We are in regular contact with social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff and also through our COVID-19 team… specifically about the pandemic,” Psaki said in July 2021.
The Heritage Foundation’s senior legal fellow, Hans von Spakovsky, told Fox News Digital that while Twitter is a private company that can moderate content, the company could be seen as an agent of the federal government if it is found to be following your adress.
“The First Amendment applies to government and prohibits censorship by government agencies and entities, not private actors,” von Spakovsky said.
“However, when a private company is redacting information based on direction, coordination, and cooperation with the government, then legally it may be considered to be acting as an agent of the government and found to be in violation of the First Amendment.”
RATCLIFFE: NO ‘COINCIDENCE’ JIM BAKER GOT TWITTER’S BEST JOB AFTER PUSHING RUSSIAN COLLUSION NARRATIVE
Ilya Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute, told Fox News Digital that the Twitter Files controversy is “worse” than cases he previously covered about government “collusion” and big tech because “when the FBI’ ask’ for something, that’s pretty serious.”
George Mason University professor David Bernstein told Fox News Digital that “absent a true national security emergency, it is inappropriate for anyone with a political role in government to lobby or even pressure Twitter with regarding the content”.
“The FBI is a more complicated case,” he said. “If there is no political interference, the FBI’s sharing of information with Twitter is not inherently inappropriate. For example, the FBI might share information that a Twitter account is linked to a known terrorist group. However, there is obviously a line between sharing information correctly and a government agency putting undue pressure on an agency, especially if there’s a threat of retaliation attached to it. Without knowing more about what exactly the FBI was doing, I can’t say which side of the line they were on.”
Robert J. Delahunty, a distinguished fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and a Washington fellow at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Lifestyle, told Fox News Digital that there is not yet enough information to determine whether Twitter acted as a government agent and that a congressional investigation is needed.
“Now we know why [Twitter Files] that the intelligence community regularly interacted with Twitter and other platforms, ostensibly to ‘advise’ them to monitor what the IC deemed objectionable content,” Delahunty said. “We still don’t know enough about the nature of those interactions to be able to say whether the platforms in effect they became agents of the government. They might have.
“The next Congress should make it a top priority to investigate the (apparently extensive) contacts between the intelligence community and the platforms to determine whether what amounted to government censorship of political speech occurred.”
YOEL ROTH’S ‘GAY DATA’ DISSERTATION ‘MISTAKENLY’ BLOCKED FROM UPENN WEBSITE AFTER ELON MUSK’S TWEET
Multiple congressional Republicans have indicated they would support such an investigation.
“Some fingers are being pointed at the FBI office in Washington, DC, in ways that are really concerning,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican, told Cowboy State Daily. “I believe that the accumulation of allegations directed at the FBI office in Washington, DC, prepares it for a serious investigation by Congress.”
“For too long, Big Tech has operated with unchecked power,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., told CNY Central. “For the most part, House Republicans will hold Big Tech accountable and investigate their attempt to silence conservative views, including their egregious and biased censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story. To create a government accountable to the People, we will further expose the armed DOJ and intelligence agencies’ complicit involvement in pushing and suppressing stories for political gain, and hold them accountable.”
The Twitter Files rollout began on December 2 when journalist Matt Taibbi revealed internal efforts to suppress the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story in 2020. Journalist Bari Weiss reported on the second installment of the Twitter Files on Thursday, revealing that the company “blacklisted” or shadowbanned certain tweets and users. Parts three and four were devoted to describing what led to former President Trump being removed from Twitter on January 8, 2021. Musk reinstated Trump’s Twitter account in November.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
The fifth installment reported by Weiss on Monday revealed that employees believed Trump’s tweets about the events of January 6, 2021 had not actually violated his policies despite the company saying they did at the time.
Musk has hinted that a future release of the Twitter Archives would involve efforts for those who criticized COVID-19 policies.
The FBI did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.