The FBI denied a request to make public any payments it may have made to Google or Meta because such records could reveal protected information about law enforcement.
The FBI was recently revealed to have paid the social media company Twitter $3.4 million to process requests for information on or censorship of numerous accounts on the platform. Through a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request, The Daily Wire sought similar records of payments the agency may have made to Meta, which controls Facebook and Instagram, and Google, which controls YouTube.
“The FBI can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records responsive to your request pursuant to FOIA Exemption (b)(7)(E) [5 U.S.C.§552 (b)(7)(E)]. The nature of your request implicates records the FBI may or may not compile for law enforcement purposes,” the FBI told The Daily Wire Monday in a written response to a December 20 FOIA request.
“Please be advised per standard FBI practice and policy this response neither confirms nor denies the existence of any records which would disclose techniques, procedures, or guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions and risk circumvention of the law by FOIA Exemption (b)(7)(E) [5 U.S.C.§552 (b)(7)(E)]. Therefore, your request is being administratively closed,” the FBI said.
A slate of communications and records from Twitter released by its new head, Elon Musk, revealed that the FBI had a relationship with the social media giant that developed into a partnership in which the agency would pay the company to process requests for censorship and information on certain social media accounts.
One message from February 2021 said that the FBI paid Twitter millions of dollars in compensation for the time the company’s staff spent processing the FBI’s myriad requests.
“In 2019 [Twitter’s Safety, Content, & Law Enforcement team] instituted a reimbursement program for our legal process response from the FBI. Prior to the start of the program, Twitter chose not to collect under this statutory right of reimbursement for the time spent processing requests from the FBI,” the email said. “I am happy to report we have collected $3,415,323 since October 2019!”
The FBI’s relationship with the company influenced the platform’s censorship decisions at a high level. For instance, Twitter’s former head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, testified in December 2020 that the FBI and other members of the U.S. Intelligence Community had primed Twitter to watch out for alleged “hack-and-leak operations” by the state actors, namely Russia, ahead of the release of emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg made similar claims in an appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience” in August.
“The FBI basically came to us, some folks on our team was like, ‘Hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. We have it on notice that basically There’s about to be some kind of dump that’s similar to that,’” Zuckerberg said.
The New York Post dropped a story on Hunter’s laptop in October 2020 which was subsequently censored or suppressed on Twitter and Facebook. One of the largest proponents for censoring the story inside Twitter was the company’s deputy general counsel James Baker, who joined the social media platform after a stint as the FBI’s general counsel.
Roth eventually made the call to censor the Biden laptop story after rounds of internal debate. “The suggestion from experts – which rings true – is there was a hack that happened separately, and they loaded the hacked materials on the laptop that magically appeared at a repair shop in Delaware,” Roth said in an email.