Written by Hudson Crozier
Revealed: Jim Baker, a former FBI executive who worked at Twitter, pressured Trust and Safety Chief Yoel Roth into censoring the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story under its “hacked materials” policy.
What led up to it: The FBI had possessed Hunter’s laptop since December 2019 but reportedly refused to investigate it to protect Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Though Twitter barely reported any Russian activity on the platform at the time, the government spent months telling Roth to be on the lookout for Russian disinformation and hacking operations ahead of the 2020 election. Roth said that some intelligence officials specifically mentioned potential rumors about Hunter Biden.
No evidence the laptop was fake: Right after the story was published, Baker told Roth that the laptop must have been fake or hacked while admitting he had no evidence at the time. Considering the constant suggestions from officials that something like this would happen, Roth took their word for it, and Twitter censored the story.
The FBI’s relationship with Twitter ran deep:
- So many former FBI officials worked at Twitter prior to Elon Musk’s takeover that they had their own private chat room.
- The FBI paid Twitter millions of dollars for processing its requests for censorship or investigations.
- The agency grew bolder over time, even demanding users’ data without a proper criminal warrant, but Twitter refused such requests.
Big picture: After forming deep connections with Twitter through former employees and communications hidden from the public, the government spent months priming the platform to censor a legitimate news story, and it worked.