A new report released by the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government has revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation under President Joe Biden "facilitated censorship requests to American social media companies on behalf of a Ukrainian intelligence agency infiltrated by Russian-aligned actors."
The report alleged that following Russia's invasion of its neighbor to the west, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) asked the FBI to help detect and do away with accounts spewing Kremlin propaganda. The SBU was later found to have been "compromised" by people doing Putin's bidding.
According to the report, at the outset of the war, the SBU sent the FBI lists of "thousands" of social media accounts accused of "spreading Russian disinformation," which the US agency then distributed to social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
Subpoenaed documents from the tech giants revealed that many of the accounts that were targeted belonged to American citizens engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment, including those "expressing unambiguously pro-Ukrainian views, as well as those voicing opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin." This, the report argued, shows that "the FBI did not meaningfully vet the SBU's lists." Among the accounts earmarked were those of a verified US State Department account, and numerous journalists.
Much of the content posted by the flagged accounts had very low engagement, something the report pointed to as evidence of the "expansive online surveillance apparatus" of the SBU and its "desire to crack down on content in the early stages of dissemination, before it approaches the 'virality threshold'."
The SBU was formed following the collapse of the Soviet Union as a successor of the KGB, and has long been a hotbed of Russian infiltration. In July 2022, after the FBI had collaborated with the SBU, President Zelensky suspended the head of the organization, Ivan Bakanov, citing "the large number of SBU staff suspected of treason."
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