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Watch: FBI and DHS Heads Are Slammed for Pressuring Big Tech to Censor Americans

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During a recent Senate Homeland Security Committee on “Threats to the Homeland,” the heads of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were blasted for their agencies’ roles in pressuring Big Tech companies to censor Americans.

In his opening statement, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) pointed to the 1976 Church Committee final report that documented decades of “widespread abuse by federal intelligence agencies against US citizens” and expressed his fear that now, almost half a century after this report was published, “our federal government is still undertaking many of the same tactics that the Church Committee found to be unworthy of democracy, and occasionally reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.”

He continued by highlighting the ways the FBI, DHS, and other federal agencies operated “in a manner that is outside the scope of their authorities, wasting taxpayer dollars and infringing on the rights of Americans.” The senator from Kentucky pointed to the Fifth Circuit’s finding that the FBI and other federal agencies likely violated the First Amendment when coercing Big Tech companies to censor speech and noted that much of the speech the FBI flagged for censorship was truthful.

Paul also took aim at the FBI’s “misuse [of] its authority” under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a warrantless surveillance law that the FBI has used to spy on millions of Americans, including a senator, a state senator, and a judge.

When it came time for Paul to question DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray, he continued to grill them for the way their agencies pushed social media companies to silence Americans.

He questioned Mayorkas on the DHS’s meetings with social media companies to discuss content moderation, which were documented in the federal government social media censorship case, Missouri v. Biden. Mayorkas framed these meetings as “a public-private partnership to speak of the threats to the homeland so that those companies are alert to them” but Paul noted that the DHS has flagged content about Covid, the Hunter Biden laptop story, and more to social media companies for censorship.

The Kentucky senator then asked Wray similar questions. Wray admitted that the FBI is still “having some interaction with social media companies” following the Fifth Circuit’s injunction that prohibits the FBI and several other federal agencies from pressuring social media companies to censor constitutionally protected speech. However, Wray said that “all of those interactions have changed fundamentally in the wake of the court’s rules.”

Wray also said that the FBI had “certainly not” discussed any posts about vaccine efficacy with social media companies. While the FBI may have not discussed this topic with these companies directly, a surveillance contractor for the FBI reportedly infiltrated the chatrooms of groups that opposed vaccine mandates.

After slamming Wray and Mayorkas for their agencies’ social media censorship pressure, Senator Paul focused on the revelation that the FBI paid Twitter millions of dollars.

Wray denied that these payments were for content moderation and claimed that they were part of a reimbursement to cover social media companies’ “expenses to produce information” for the FBI.

The FBI’s payments to Twitter are controversial because they were made in February 2021, just a few months after the 2020 US presidential election where much of the FBI censorship documented in Missouri v. Biden occurred.

Lawmakers have attempted to introduce legislation that requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to report all payments to social media companies and the DOJ was recently sued for records on these payments. However, so far, the FBI has refused to provide details on the other social media companies that it pays.

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