FBI Worked With ‘Compromised’ Ukrainian Intel Agency To Censor Americans, Report Says
People hold Ukrainian flags during a rally in support of Ukraine on Pennsylvania Ave in front of the White House in Washington, DC on March 13, 2022/Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters building in Washington D.C., United States on July 3, 2023
SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images/Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The FBI facilitated censorship requests against American citizens from a Ukrainian intelligence agency that has likely been compromised by Russian actors, according to a House committee report released Monday.

The 26-page report from the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government accused one of America’s top law enforcement agencies of violating Americans’ First Amendment rights and potentially undermining U.S. national security. After Russia invaded Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) sought to fight supposed Russian influence on social media and levied the power of the FBI for its mission. 

“The SBU enlisted the FBI in support of this effort, transmitting to the FBI lists of social media accounts that allegedly ‘spread Russian disinformation.’ The FBI, in turn, routinely relayed these lists to the relevant social media platforms, which distributed the information internally to their employees in charge of content moderation and enforcement,” the report said. 

As reported in the Twitter Files, DOJ officials regularly met with social media executives at Meta, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and others to discuss “misinformation” spreading on the platforms and how the social media sites could crack down on supposed untruthful speech. The new House committee report showed that the FBI flagged accounts and posts for social media companies at the behest of the SBU, including posts from “authentic accounts of Americans … a verified U.S. State Department account and those belonging to American journalists.”

“At times, the FBI would even follow up with the relevant platform to ensure that ‘these accounts were taken down.’ Regardless of its intended purpose in endorsing the SBU’s requests, the FBI had no legal justification for facilitating the censorship of Americans’ protected speech on social media,” according to the report.

As the FBI was coordinating with the SBU to censor Americans’ speech, Russian actors who had reportedly infiltrated the Ukrainian agency could have been influencing decisions made by the agency, according to the House committee report. Last July, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired the head of the SBU, citing dozens of cases of those under his authority working with Russian agents, Reuters reported

Months before Zelensky’s attempted crackdown on Russian agents within his intelligence team, an FBI agent sent an email to Meta in March 2022, specifying accounts that the SBU wanted the social media giant to censor, according to the report. 

“I have a few more Instagram and [Facebook] accounts that according to the SBU spread Russian disinformation. For your review and action as deemed appropriate,” special agent Aleksandr Kobzanets wrote to a Meta employee on March 1, 2022. 


Kobzanets also attached two spreadsheets to his email, containing thousands of accounts and posts suspected of “spread[ing] Russian disinformation.” Most of the posts and accounts belonged to people living in Russia and Belarus, but accounts belonging to Americans were interspersed throughout the spreadsheets. Some of the American accounts included in the spreadsheet belonged to “a photographer working with a studio in New York; a manager of a moving company in South Carolina; a musician and vocalist based in Minnesota; a professor at a university in California; and a children’s book author living in Washington state,” the report said. 

The report added that it was unclear if the FBI took any steps to vet the lists of accounts and posts sent to them by the SBU. The FBI also forwarded lists of YouTube accounts that the SBU wanted to be censored, many of which were removed by the platform. 

Twitter also received a list from the FBI, and the company’s Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth warned that the list included American and Canadian journalists, writing to agent Kobzanets, “Any additional information or context … is of course welcome and appreciated.” But Kobzanets simply responded to Roth’s concern by saying it was “[u]nlikely there will be any additional information or context.” 

Despite revelations from the Twitter Files sparking widespread criticism of the Department of Justice’s relationship with social media companies and a federal judge blocking numerous agencies from contacting Big Tech, the report said that it appears the “FBI’s cooperation with the SBU remains ongoing.”

“This report details misconduct by the FBI that is unconstitutional,” the House committee report said. “It is also counterproductive to the professed aims of the Biden Administration regarding U.S. support for Ukraine, and it endangers our national security. The FBI’s conflation of domestic speech with foreign malign influence poses a grave threat to Americans’ civil liberties.” 

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