I spent much of the weekend combing through the Twitter Files for examples of the “Censorship Enterprise” described by the Attorneys General in the landmark Missouri v. Biden lawsuit. As I was about to publish, a new report was issued by the House Weaponization of Government Committee that takes the Twitter Files theme in several crazy new directions.
A month ago, Aaron Maté of The Grayzone published a new piece about a bizarre finding in the Twitter Files. An FBI agent named Alexander Kozbanets had forwarded to Twitter a list sent to the FBI by Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU. These accounts, Kozbanets said, were “suspected by the SBU of spreading fear and disinformation.” Of the 170-odd account names on the list, most were Russian, but one stood out: Aaron’s! Here he is, along with the popular Russian newspaper “Rush Hour” (Chas-Pik) and a host of Cyrillic names:
The shame of this story wasn’t that the SBU sent this list over, but rather that the FBI collaborated in the effort, even having the gall to forward the name of a respected, award-winning Canadian journalist to Twitter. To its credit, Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth pushed back, noting Aaron’s name and saying, “authentic news outlets and reporters who cover the conflict with a pro-Russian stance are unlikely to be found in violation of our rules.” Nonetheless, the fact that the FBI even tried this lunatic stunt was damning.
Now, thanks to the Weaponization Committee, we find out this situation with Aaron appears not to have been a one-off incident.
In fact, the Committee found that since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, there’s been an ongoing pattern of mass-censorship requests, funneled from the SBU through the FBI to a whole variety of platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, for starters. As the report notes:
The FBI, at the request of the SBU, flagged for social media companies the authentic accounts of Americans, including a verified U.S. State Department account and those belonging to American journalists. The FBI and SBU repeatedly requested the removal or suspension of authentic accounts expressing unambiguously pro-Ukrainian views, as well as those voicing opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As to the latter, the Committee suggested the part of the problem may be connected to an incident in which President Volodymyr Zelensky fired the head of the SBU “on account of Russian infiltration.”
Whatever the reason for some of the moderation decisions, the pattern of behavior the Commitee uncovered probably explains some of the documents we found in the Twitter Files. For instance, now that we know for sure the FBI was forwarding SBU moderation requests to YouTube, the following document we found decrying “anti-Ukrainian narratives” in YouTube videos,” which the FITF sent to Twitter from an unidentified source, may make more sense:
The Committee report also noted that the lists the SBU sent, which sometimes contained thousands of names, mostly targeted accounts from places like Russia or Belarus. However, they also roped in Americans, from a New York photographer, to the manager of a moving company in South Carolina, to a musician in Minnesota, to a professor and an author of children’s books, even an Instagram account belonging to the U.S. State Department!