Senator Rand Paul thinks the FBI might have paid Twitter to censor or ‘moderate’ speech.
In December, one installment of the ‘Twitter Files’ appeared to reveal an anonymous Twitter employee who claimed to have told then-deputy general counsel Jim Baker and then-general counsel Sean Edgett in an email, “we have collected $3,415,323 since October 2019!”
So Paul asked FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“Did the FBI pay Twitter money to moderate content moderation?” Paul asked him.
Wray responded, “I’m not aware of us paying money to moderate content there or anywhere else.”
The exchange took place before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.
Paul pressed Wray again, “What was the $3 million that the FBI gave that’s been revealed in the ‘Twitter Files’ which has been characterized by those writing the ‘Twitter Files’ as payment for content moderation?”
“Are you aware of the payment?” Paul asked..
Wray replied, “I am not aware of that specific payment but I can tell you that when it comes to payments, going back well over four decades when we are required by federal law, when a company like in this instance a provider, goes through expenses to produce information, we are required to reimburse them for those expenses.”
Paul wanted to know if the FBI was still interacting with social media platforms, asking,
“Is the FBI still meeting with social media companies?”
The FBI director responded, “We’re having some interaction with social media companies but all of those interactions have changed fundamentally in the wake of the court’s rulings.”
In July, a federal judge blocked the US government agencies and officials from meeting with social media companies. The court has since eased that injunction as the decision will now head to the Supreme Court.
Paul said to Wray, “That’s sort of an acknowledgement that perhaps you weren’t just talking about national security, child pornography and human trafficking, right? You had other areas of discussion that did involve constitutionally protected speech.”
“No, no, that’s not an acknowledgement of that,” Wray responded.
Paul asked, “Then how did you change your behavior?”
“Out of an abundance of caution” to “run afoul of any court ruling,” Wray replied.
When issuing his injunction, US District Judge Terry Doughty said in July that multiple government agencies were forbidden to contact social media companies for the purpose of “encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.” That Wray admits this court decision has led to changed behavior at the agency and the way in which they are interacting with them is a tacit admission that the agency was formerly asking social media companies to suppress constitutionally protected speech. We don’t need Wray to admit this, thanks to the Twitter and Facebook Files we have the proof in hand.
But we do still need to know what that money was for.