This isn’t the first time we’ve heard allegations of foreign governments meddling in U.S. industry.
Twitter may have employed at least three foreign intelligence agents and kept Chinese Communist Party-linked advertising accounts on the platform despite employee objections, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that featured Twitter whistleblower and former Twitter Head of Security Peiter Zatko.
“Because of [the whistleblower’s] disclosures, we've learned that personal data from Twitter users was potentially exposed to foreign intelligence agencies,” Grassley said during the hearing. India and China placed two agents and one agent, respectively, within Twitter, Grassley added. The FBI even warned the platform of the Chinese agent, Grassley said.
In exclusive comments to MRC Free Speech America, K.T. McFarland, Deputy National Security Advisor under former President Donald Trump, said China’s influence within Twitter is part of a much larger trend.
According to a January 2021 article in the U.S. military magazine Indo-Pacific Defense Forum, the CCP had 1.95 million CCP members embedded in multinational corporations and foreign consulates and universities.
“I think their influence is everywhere,” McFarland said of the CCP’s influence in global industries including tech. “It’s no secret in the national security world that the Chinese and the Chinese Communist Party have infiltrated American and international organizations and corporations. It’s everything from Confucius Institutes on college campuses to infiltrating into international organizations for pro-China propaganda purposes, and also for intelligence gathering.”
Twitter has allegedly used its own data and tools to “geolocate” individuals who made threats against board members, which poses concerns around how foreign agents could use such data if they have access to it, Grassley said. “In the hands of a foreign agent embedded at Twitter, a foreign adversary could use the same technology to cut down pro-democracy dissidents within their country, but also to spy on Americans,” he said.
Grassley cited a 2019 report in which the Justice Department “charged two former Twitter employees with spying for Saudi Arabia” by accessing information on the platform about Saudi dissidents who used the platform.
In addition to raising the allegation of foreign intelligence agents staffing Twitter to the committee, Zatko raised concerns to company leadership about the expansion of Chinese advertising accounts on the platform, he told senators.
Zatko said Twitter responded to his concerns by telling him to “figure out a way to make people comfortable” with the CCP-linked ad accounts on the platform, because Twitter was “already in bed” with them, and “it would be problematic if we lost that revenue stream.”
Zatko said a Twitter sales executive told him the situation presented a “‘big internal conundrum, because we’re making too much money from these sales,’” he said. “’We’re not going to stop. We need something that will make the employees more comfortable with the fact that we’re doing this, figure out how we essentially thread this needle.’”
Twitter allowed Chinese advertising accounts even as China banned – and continues to ban – use of the platform within its borders, Zatko said.
The platform has still allowed CCP accounts to post multiple threats toward the U.S. as recently as August, even as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visited Taiwan. Twitter also played patsy to the communist Chinese in October 2021, allowing propaganda paper Global Times to threaten Taiwan and Australia. Showing another side of potential pro-China bias, Twitter reportedly censored University of Canterbury (New Zealand) professor Anne-Marie Brady in July 2021 after she criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The whistleblower hearing comes amid increased outside scrutiny over the percentage of bots on the platform, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has moved to exit a planned $44 billion acquisition of the company. Twitter sued Musk to follow through on the deal and Musk countersued Twitter for allegedly misrepresenting the amount of bots on the platform.
Conservatives are under attack. Contact Twitter at (415) 222-9670 and demand that Big Tech mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency and equal footing for conservatives.