The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) paid Twitter nearly $3.5 million to censor and discredit the Hunter Biden laptop story ahead of the 2020 election, according to the latest “Twitter Files” release.
Former FBI employees also had their own private Slack channel at Twitter, according to internal documents published by author Michael Shellenberger.
While Twitter can argue that it is well within its rights to censor content on its site, it is against the law for the U.S. government to censor American free speech.
“The FBI’s influence campaign may have been helped by the fact that it was paying Twitter millions of dollars for its staff time,” Shellenberger noted.
In one of the documents, an associate of Jim Baker writes of the windfall from the FBI: “I am happy to report we have collected $3,415,323 since October 2019!”
Earlier this month, Elon Musk fired Baker, then Twitter General Counsel, for “suppression of information important to the public dialogue.” Baker, a former FBI counsel, had scrubbed all mentions of the FBI from the first release of the Twitter Files.
The FBI in 2020 had warned Twitter that the New York Post’s blockbuster scoop about Hunter Biden’s laptop could be part of a Russian “hack and leak” operation. The FBI made the contention even while knowing the concern was unfounded, according to the documents.
The documents showed that Twitter’s former head of Trust and Safety, Yoel Roth, was contacted by FBI Agent Elvis Chan just hours before The Post published the first laptop story on Oct. 14, 2020.
Chan used a special, one-way communication channel to send Roth and at least one other person 10 documents on the night of Oct. 13, 2020, and asked them to confirm receipt, Shellenberger found.
Although the contents of the documents Chan sent are unknown, the timing is suspect and was in keeping with the FBI’s efforts to squelch free speech on the platform on grounds of guarding against “foreign interference in elections,” Shellenberger said in posting the Twitter Files.
Chan had earlier arranged “temporary Top Secret security clearances for Twitter executives.” In July 2020, Chan emailed Roth, suggesting that beginning 30 days before Election Day, Twitter executives would be granted temporary security clearances to discuss purported threats with FBI officials.
“You get to pick who they would be,” Chan wrote.
Roth subsequently admitted in a sworn declaration that the feds had primed him to view any reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop as a “Russian ‘hack and leak’ operation.”
Chan later admitted under oath that the FBI warnings were exaggerated.
According to Shellenberger, there were so many former FBI employees working at Twitter leading up to the 2020 election that they had their own private Slack channel, “Bu alumni,” complete with a crib sheet to onboard new members.
By mid-September, Chan and Roth agreed to set up a “virtual war room” for Internet executives and the FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to internal emails.
The Twitter Files released by Shellenberger also show that an organization funded by leftist billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundations played a major role in Twitter’s decision to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story.
First Draft News, a now-defunct nonprofit funded by Soros, played a key role in Twitter’s preparation to shut down the story in October 2020, internal documents published by Shellenberger.
The Aspen Institute hosted a September 2020 training exercise for members of the media and social media leaders regarding the handling of hypothetical data leaks which were similar to the Hunter Biden laptop report that broke in October, according to Shellenberger. Claire Wardle, former executive director and co-founder of First Draft News, appeared to be an attendee of the exercise, according to an email published by Shellenberger.
The address that apparently belonged to Wardle was one of multiple recipients in an email to top national security reporters, Facebook’s head of security policy and others, according to Shellenberger. The Open Society Foundations, which left-wing megadonor Soros chairs, once funded First Draft News. The organization shut down in June.
“Today we are announcing that First Draft is closing its doors to make way for the next chapter — its mission will continue at the newly launched Information Futures Lab, an initiative from Brown’s School of Public Health,” an announcement from Wardle reads.
The Aspen Institute training exercise, titled “The Burisma Leak,” involved a series of hypothetical leaks during October 2020 showing that Hunter Biden had made more money in his role at Burisma than previously disclosed and had communicated with his father about his work there, Shellenberger reported. The exercise was meant to shape how the media covered the eventual leak of the Hunter Biden laptop story and the way social media platforms carried it.