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FBI Agent Elvis Chan Gave Twitter Execs Top Secret Clearance in Advance of 2020 Election
New internal documents from Twitter, revealed today as part of Elon Musk’s “Twitter Files” series, show FBI Agent Elvis Chan arranged for Top Secret security clearance—the highest level of US national security clearance—to be granted to Twitter executives for the purpose of facilitating the censorship of suspected misinformation in advance of the 2020 election.
Elvis Chan has long been closely involved in working with social media companies to identify and censor suspected misinformation from sources both foreign and domestic, especially with regard to suspected election interference. This has included regularly sending lists of social media posts to social media companies for them to take down, as well as the suspension of the New York Post and others for what was subsequently borne out to be a true story about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
In his deposition last month, Chan described how the pressure that he and other FBI agents placed on social media companies to censor information about Hunter Biden’s laptop stemmed from a “thesis” that the incriminating content may have been uploaded onto the laptop as part of a Russian “hack-and-leak” operation. But the basis for this Russian hack-and-leak thesis is disputed, in no small part because the FBI took possession of the laptop in December 2019, nearly a year before the story was censored, and because there did not appear to be any new intelligence to suggest that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election.
Elvis Chan’s regular emails and weekly meetings with social media executives raise new questions about the level of coordination taking place between the federal government and social media companies for the purpose of censoring suspected misinformation shared by ordinary citizens. The level of this coordination is currently the subject of lawsuits including my own, Changizi v. Dept. of Health & Human Services, and Missouri v. Biden, in which a damning round of discovery previously revealed that more than 80 federal officials across a dozen agencies had been involved in the censorship of social media content.
Upon hearing the news, one FBI agent expressed disgust at what he described as the “gross subservience” that’s been shown by social media companies to the FBI, noting that the “default position” is for private companies to be “totally adversarial” to inquiries by the FBI about their customers.
The fact that Agent Chan granted Top Secret security clearances to social media executives seems to belie the government’s defense that its work with Big Tech platforms is not a “hand-in-glove” relationship for purposes of bypassing the First Amendment—as does the fact that federal officials for some reason felt it necessary to establish these comprehensive back-channels with Big Tech platforms without at least informing the American public—or even suggesting that we, y’know, simply block access to social media by Russian troll farms before resorting to the wholesale censorship of American citizens.
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