The top Democrat on the House Weaponization subcommittee threatened a journalist with prison time over his congressional testimony that exposed the government’s attempt to influence Twitter.
Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (D., V.I.) made the threat in a letter to reporter Matt Taibbi, who testified on March 9 about his "Twitter Files" series, which revealed details of interactions between the FBI, federal agencies, and Twitter executives. Plaskett, noting a discrepancy in Taibbi's testimony, warned him in the letter that providing false information to Congress is "punishable by up to five years imprisonment."
Plaskett took issue with Taibbi's claim that the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency pressured Twitter to censor various news articles on its platform. While the agency did correspond with Twitter regarding the censorship of content on the platform, Taibbi acknowledged in a television interview that he mixed up the federal agency with the Center for Internet Security, a nonprofit that receives federal funding, during his testimony.
Plaskett’s threat is another instance of government backlash to Taibbi's testimony. IRS agents visited Taibbi's home in New Jersey while he was in Washington delivering the testimony that spurred Plaskett's threat. In a letter to the IRS and Treasury Department last month, House Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) said his committee would investigate "whether the visit was a thinly-veiled attempt to influence or intimidate a witness before Congress." The Weaponization Committee Plaskett sits on was created to investigate the use of government agencies such as the Congress, the IRS, and FBI.
Taibbi’s reporting has pulled back the curtain on federal agencies’ efforts to censor conservative content at Twitter. One of Taibbi’s revelations was that James Baker, a former FBI official who worked at Twitter, advised the company in October 2020 to censor an article about emails from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop.
Other documents from the "Twitter Files" show federal agencies pressuring Twitter to moderate content related to the coronavirus vaccines, Russia, and the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Some reporters called for Plaskett to resign over the letter.
"She should resign from Congress for this and at minimum should be removed from the committee," said The Intercept’s Ryan Grim. "The press is not the enemy of the people and threatening reporters with prison—especially as we work to free Evan in Moscow—is reckless and dangerous."
Plaskett’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Taibbi did not respond to a request for comment.
Published under: First Amendment , House of Representatives , Prison , Twitter