Wednesday 1 November 2023

FBI Director Says Interactions With Social Media Companies Have ‘Fundamentally’ Changed

 FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency’s interactions with social media companies have “changed fundamentally” due to court rulings.

The testimony provided by Wray before a Senate committee on Tuesday offered some insight into how the Biden administration has been forced to change its contacts with Big Tech due to ongoing litigation.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) asked Wray whether the FBI is still meeting with social media companies, to which the FBI director said, “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.”

A second witness at the hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, said his agency does not meet with social media companies “for the purpose of instructing them to take down content.”

GOP state attorneys general spearheaded a lawsuit over alleged collusion between the federal government and social media companies to censor speech in violation of the First Amendment that led to rulings limiting contacts that the FBI and other Biden administration entities could have with technology platforms regarding content they viewed as being misinformation over actions that “likely” violated the First Amendment.

Wray said the FBI has changed its approach to social media companies “out of an abundance of caution,” though he noted the Supreme Court lifted those restrictions earlier this month as the legal challenge plays out.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), who leads the “Weaponization of the Federal Government” select subcommittee, reacted to a clip of their exchange by touting the lawsuit. “The Missouri v. Biden ruling did more for free speech than the FBI,” Jordan said in a post to X.

The FBI director denied that his statements acknowledged the bureau’s contacts with social media companies related to cracking down on constitutionally protected speech rather than national security or criminal issues. Wray said to the best of his knowledge, agents acted within accordance with the law, a view that Mayorkas said also applies to the Homeland Security Department.

Another thorny issue raised by Paul concerned the “Twitter Files” showing the FBI gave Twitter, now known as X, more than $3 million and driving suspicions that the bureau was paying to have accounts censored, particularly when it came to the crack-down on the Hunter Biden laptop story around the 2020 election.

Though Wray said he was unaware of the specific payment referenced by Paul, he emphasized that the FBI is required by federal law to reimburse a company that goes through expenses to produce information. “I think that a lot of the questions about payments revolve around exactly that,” he added.

Paul encouraged Wray to be transparent “because this is all going to come out and a lot of it has come out already in depositions” On X, the senator posted, “The American people deserve accountability from the federal government and Congress cannot continue to abdicate its constitutional duty to conduct oversight.”

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