The Federal Bureau of Investigation has aided a Ukrainian intelligence effort to censor social media users and obtain their personal information, leaked emails reveal.
In March 2022, an FBI Special Agent sent Twitter a list of accounts on behalf of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ukraine’s main intelligence agency. The accounts, the FBI wrote, “are suspected by the SBU in spreading fear and disinformation.” In an attached memo, the SBU asked Twitter to remove the accounts and hand over their user data.
The Ukrainian government’s FBI-enabled targets extend to members of the media. The SBU list that the FBI provided to Twitter included my name and Twitter profile. In its response to the FBI, Twitter agreed to review the accounts for “inauthenticity” but raised concerns about the inclusion of me and other “American and Canadian journalists.”
The FBI’s attempt to ban Twitter accounts at the request of Ukrainian intelligence is among the most overt requests for censorship revealed to date in the Twitter Files, a cache of leaked communications from the social media giant.
The FBI’s censorship request was relayed in a March 27th, 2022 email from FBI Special Agent Aleksandr Kobzanets, the Assistant Legal Attaché at the US Embassy in Kyiv, to two Twitter executives. Four FBI colleagues were copied on the exchange.
“Thank you very much for your time to discuss the assistance to Ukraine,” Kobzanets wrote. “I am including a list of accounts I 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 attached document, drafted by Ukraine’s SBU, contained 163 accounts, including mine. (The list is numbered to 175, but some accounts have two corresponding numerical lines).
The listed Twitter profiles, the SBU alleged, have been “used to disseminate disinformation and fake news to inaccurately reflect events in Ukraine, justify war crimes of the Russian authorities on the territory of the Ukrainian state in violation of international law.”
In order “to stop Russian aggression on the information front,” the SBU continued, “we kindly ask you to take urgent measures to block these Twitter accounts and provide us with user data specified during registration.”
The SBU expressed its “gratitude for the existing level of interaction.”…