The director of the FBI has revealed himself to be quite the politicized authoritarian.
In Senate testimony on Friday, Christopher Wray appeared to suggest that big tech work more closely with the federal government to shut down certain viewpoints on social media platforms, claiming the country would be in a “better place” if they did so.
Wray made that remark in response to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) regarding what the bureau can (and should?) do to address the use of social media to incite violence and whether the big tech behemoths were doing enough to prevent attacks.
The remarks were also made in context of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol Building (of course — because Antifa and other left-wing groups never use social media to organize), who were said to have coordinated through online platforms. The riot has also been used to justify cracking down further on social media, though the months of mostly left-wing rioting during the summer and fall of 2020 have been similarly cited as justification.
Wray, Reclaim the Net noted, said that the big tech platforms can do more to moderate — censor — content that allegedly violates community standards, most of which appear to be arbitrarily enforced.
“We tried to work with the social media companies and there are things that they can and do using their terms of service and violations of their terms of service to take accounts down and things like that,” Wray said.
“But there is, I think, a phenomenon that we all have to recognize, which is that the social media industry enjoys the ability to amplify and connect people. There are good things that come with that and bad things that come with that. We would all be in a better place the more the companies take responsibility for misuse and abuse of the platforms,” he said.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, channeled authoritarianism when he said that he was surprised the FBI did not more aggressively monitor publicly available social media content, using the J6 riot as justification, naturally.
He also noted that the Attorney General’s guidelines give the FBI the authority to “proactively surf the internet to find publicly available websites where the promotion of terrorist crimes are openly taking place.”
Wray responded that the topic is complicated while clarifying that then-FBI Counterterrorism chief Jill Sanborn tried explaining previously that the bureau does not have the authority to “persistently and passively sit on the internet” to monitor social media.
“It’s more complicated than that, but with proper predication and authorized purpose, there are things we can do in terms of publicly available social media,” he said.
Reclaim the Net noted further:
Senator Mike Lee told Wray that Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy, suggesting that monitoring social media is a form of a warrantless search. He referenced a 2021 transparency report where the FBI said that it had identified four cases of US citizens being unlawfully searched without going through the proper process under Section 270 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Section 270 allows the collection of electronic communications of foreigners but there have been many unlawful cases of Americans being spied on.
Senator Lee asked how the FBI found out about the four cases and how it confirmed they were actually four, arguing that he found it “utterly implausible” that the number was limited to four. Wray could not definitively answer the questions, saying that the findings could have been obtained from DOJ’s national security reviews and internal FBI audits to confirm FISA compliance.
At another point, Wray was asked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about an FBI training aid leaked to Project Veritas that appears to highlight “various symbols and themes which in the FBI’s estimation were indicative of ‘militia violent extremism.'” on the right.
According to a video clip of the exchange posted online, Cruz pointed out that, according to the alleged FBI training document, the symbols included the Betsy Ross flag — an early design of the American flag consisting of 13 stars in a circle — the Gadsden “Live Free Or Die” Flag and the Gonzales battle flag. At that, Cruz took off one of his boots and slammed it on the table to show Wray that it depicted the Gonzales flag.
“Well, I will self-report right now that every day in the Senate, I wear my boots that have the Gonzalez battle flag on the back of them,” he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) slams his boot on the table in opposition to FBI guidelines on symbols that indicate violent extremist groups:
“I will self-report right now that everyday in the Senate I wear my boots that have the Gonzales battle flag on the back.” pic.twitter.com/HxsqbEXaqJ
— The Recount (@therecount) August 4, 2022
“Director Wray, what are y’all doing? This makes no sense,” Cruz asked.