FBI helped Ukraine censor social media accounts: Twitter files
The Assistant Legal Attache to the US Embassy in Kiev, forwarded a list of Twitter accounts to officials including then-Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth.
According to hacked emails released by writer Aaron Mate as part of the Twitter Files, the FBI assisted the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in censoring the Twitter accounts of journalists and other users accused of disseminating "disinformation" on the network.
As per a March 2022 email, FBI Special Agent Aleksandr Kobzanets, the Assistant Legal Attache to the US Embassy in Kiev, forwarded a list of Twitter accounts to officials including then-Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth.
The email explained how it included a list of accounts that Kobzanets "received over a couple of weeks from the Security Service of Ukraine. These accounts are suspected by the SBU in spreading fear and disinformation. For your review and consideration."
The email also sheds light on an earlier meeting with Twitter, in which he thanks them for "discussing the assistance to Ukraine."
The FBI gave the SBU list to Twitter, which includes members of the media, including Mate, a journalist for TheGrayzone. The list includes a total of 163 accounts, including RIA Novosti's Russian language account.
In a closing statement, the email read “Taking into account the above, to stop Russian aggression on the information front, we kindly ask you to take urgent measures to block these Twitter accounts and provide us with user data specified during registration,” adding that “We express our gratitude for the existing level of interaction.”
Later that day, Roth informed Kobzanets via email that Twitter will investigate the reported accounts in accordance with the platform's policies. Roth highlighted that the list had a "mix" of accounts, including official Russian accounts as well as ones from American journalists.
Kobzanets said he understood and that “Whatever your review determines and actions Twitter deem is appropriate.”
According to the report, out of 163 accounts on the list, 34 are suspended and 20 have been deleted.
The emails were revealed as part of the Twitter Files, an ongoing investigation into Twitter's involvement with government and corporate organizations to suppress content to counter disinformation.
The FBI's collaboration with Twitter to remove accounts at the behest of Ukrainian intelligence is "among the most overt requests for censorship revealed to date in the Twitter Files," Mate added.