Meta, Facebook’s parent company, identified the team as the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), according to an updated complaint entered late on Oct. 6.
Meta named the team after receiving a subpoena in a case alleging the federal government pressured Big Tech firms to censor users.
“Pursuant to the third-party subpoena, Meta has identified the FBI’s FITF, as supervised by Laura Dehmlow, and Elvis Chan as involved in the communications between the FBI and Meta that led to Facebook’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story,” the updated complaint states.
Mark Zuckberg, Meta’s CEO, said in August that Facebook reduced the reach of posts about Hunter Biden’s laptop in response to advice from the FBI.
“The background here is the FBI I think basically came to some folks on our team [and] were like, ‘Hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election, we have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump similar to that, so just be vigilant,’” Zuckerberg said on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He made similar comments before the Senate in 2020.
“One of the threats that the FBI has alerted our company and the public to was the possibility of a hack and leak operation in the days or weeks leading up to this election,” Zuckerberg said then. Those alerts “suggested we be on high alert and sensitivity if a trove of documents appeared that we should view that with suspicion that it might be part of a foreign manipulation attempt,” he added.
The FBI declined to comment on the updated lawsuit, which now names the FBI as a defendant. The bureau said previously that it is routinely in touch with U.S. companies but “cannot ask, or direct, companies to take action on information received.”
The FITF was established by FBI Director Christopher Wray in 2017 “to identify and counteract malign foreign influence operations targeting the United States,” according to the bureau’s website. Such operations include covert actions by outside governments aimed at influencing the American political scene or discourse, the bureau has said.
Laura Dehmlow is a supervisor of FITF. She has been named as a defendant in the case along with Elvis Chan, a special agent who manages the cyber branch at the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office.
By Zachary Stieber