Wray Defends Flagging Twitter Accounts: We Tell Social Media About ‘Foreign Disinformation Campaigns’ and They Decide what to Do

During an interview with the Fox News Channel released on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray responded to disclosures in the Twitter files about FBI communications with Twitter and a question on whether it’s appropriate for the FBI to flag social media accounts over politics or government policies by stating that the agency tells “social media companies about information that we have about foreign disinformation campaigns by foreign actors, by foreign intelligence services” and the companies then decide how to act.

Host Bret Baier asked, [relevant exchange begins around 4:10] “So, let’s talk about the FBI and what you told big tech — or some agents did — about the authenticity and providence of Hunter Biden’s laptop, there are these Twitter files that have come out where it kind of goes into some of that and some of the big tech people have talked about the fact that it was talked about as disinformation, what about that from an FBI perspective?”

Wray responded, “So, I’m glad you asked that question, because there seems to me to be an awful lot of confusion and important context missing out there about the way in which the FBI does and does not work with social media companies. So, the FBI, as a law enforcement and intelligence agency, is responsible for working with social media companies to combat all sorts of threats, child pornography, terrorists, and foreign intelligence services…conducting influence operations targeting the U.S. And when we do that work, when we engage with social media companies, if we come across information that a particular hostile foreign intelligence service is using an American social media platform to conduct their operations, we have a responsibility to say something, to tell those companies what we’ve seen so that — and this is important — so that those companies can independently make their own decisions about what steps, if any, they want to take on their platforms for their customers.”

Baier then cut in to say, “Yeah, but these guys are talking about they get a heads-up that there’s this big thing that’s going to come out that deals with Hunter Biden and be careful because it could be Russian disinformation.”

Wray responded, “So, we don’t, I think a lot of people don’t quite understand this, we don’t, when we do that work, focus on the content, what we focus on are the foreign actors. So, in this case, a foreign intelligence service. We’re not — the FBI does not and is not in the business of functioning as the truth police. We don’t tell social media companies to censor anything.”

Baier then cut in to ask, “Well, the Twitter files suggest something different. There was an FBI request, numerous times, Taibbi puts it out, FBI San Francisco requests to ban certain accounts, Twitter personnel in this case went on to look for reasons to suspend all four accounts that the FBI wanted to ban or suspend. Is it appropriate to flag social media accounts for — on Twitter or elsewhere due to politics or government policies when it comes to COVID? Is it appropriate in any way? You’re saying it doesn’t happen, but there’s evidence that it had.”

Wray answered, “We don’t tell social media companies to ban accounts. What we do is tell social media companies about information that we have about foreign disinformation campaigns by foreign actors, by foreign intelligence services. And those companies then make decisions about what, if anything, they want to do about it.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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