The US House Judiciary Committee has released a report indicating that the FBI collaborated with Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) to target social media accounts spreading alleged “Russian disinformation.” However, the FBI ended up flagging pages belonging to the US State Department and American journalists, without properly vetting the information provided by the SBU.
The report, released on Monday, criticized the FBI for not vetting the lists of accounts provided by the SBU before forwarding them to social media platforms like Meta, Google, and Twitter. As a result, the FBI and SBU requested the deletion of authentic American accounts, including a verified US State Department account and those of American journalists.
According to the report, the FBI even followed up to ensure that these accounts were taken down. One of the lists forwarded by the FBI to Meta described the official Russian-language Instagram account of the US State Department as promoting war and justifying Russian war crimes in Ukraine. Notably, Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, apparently did not comply with the FBI’s request to delete the State Department page.
The report also mentioned another moderation request filed by the US domestic security agency to Facebook, which included a list of 5,165 accounts. The report cited an email from a senior Twitter employee who informed the FBI that the agency’s lists included accounts belonging to American and Canadian journalists.
Alphabet platforms Google and YouTube were also approached regarding alleged pro-Russian accounts. A high-ranking member of Google’s cybersecurity team stated that the company had received numerous requests for content removal from the Ukrainian government, other Eastern European governments, the European Union, and the European Commission.
The House Judiciary Committee report raised concerns about the FBI’s collaboration with the SBU, claiming that it violated the First Amendment rights of Americans and potentially undermined national security. The committee pointed out that the SBU had been infiltrated by Russian-aligned actors, as demonstrated by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s purge within the agency last summer.
The release of the report precedes FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, scheduled for Wednesday. Republicans on the committee plan to question Wray about the report’s contents, using it to assert that the FBI interferes in free speech.
This revelation raises important questions about the FBI’s handling of information provided by foreign partners and the potential impact on Americans’ freedom of speech. The report highlights the need for thorough vetting processes and safeguards to prevent the unintended targeting and suppression of legitimate voices and accounts.