Alan MacLeod of MintPress News has just released an exposé of the hiring practices in Silicon Valley, particularly at Twitter, and his findings suggest that many social media companies have filled some of their highest security positions and most influential positions with former members of federal agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and the military.
According to MacLeod, former high-profile FBI figures Dawn Burton, Karen Walsh, Jim Baker, Mark Jaroszewski, and Douglas Turner, as well as former FBI agents listed as Matthew W., Patrick G., and Bruce A., and FBI employees Cherrelle Y. and Laura D. all once held or currently hold positions at Twitter related to policy, security, finances, or legal issues.
Whistleblower Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent, said she’s not at all surprised, claiming that there’s now a “revolving door” between federal agents and the companies they were once charged with policing.
In all, dozens have made the jump from federal law enforcement to social media, and MacLeod argued that the cozy relationship between the two sectors creates a myopic feedback loop that affects social media policies regarding censorship and disinformation, just as it reifies the prestige of federal agencies.
“These [tech] companies are using the mythical aura of the FBI,” Rowley said. “They can point to somebody and say, ‘Oh, you can trust us; our CEO or CFO is FBI.’”
And Twitter and the FBI are not the only entities to do so. Facebook, TikTok, the CIA, even the Army and Marine Corps all have crossovers between social media and the federal government, and some of those crossovers have gigs in Silicon Valley and with the federal government at the same time.
And not just the U.S. federal government. In 2019, Gordon Macmillan, Twitter’s head of editorial for the entire Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, was also discovered to be a member of what MacLeod called “the British Army’s notorious 77th Brigade,” which he said is “dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations.”
MacLeod carefully noted, however, that none of the persons mentioned in his piece are considered bad actors and that “there is a limited pool of people qualified in these sorts of fields.” However, MacLeod also argued that the career pipeline from federal agency to social media platform is both bad optics and, as Rowley says, a conflict of interest.
“In terms of their outlooks on the world and on the question of misinformation and internet security, you couldn’t get a better field of professionals who are almost inherently going to be more in tune with the government’s perspective” than former federal agents now working for social media companies, Rowley said.