The FBI’s Records Vault Twitter account is facing criticism after it tweeted out a link to a PDF that included the Protocols of Learned Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic hoax, without any context.
The Records Vault account is automated, and tweets out links to Freedom of Information Act requests that are now public. However, the account tweeting out the hoax literature without context has generated a heap of criticism.
The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is a fake document from the early 1900s about “alleged secret plans of Jewish leaders seeking to attain world domination,” as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) notes.
The document was “used to portray Jews as enemies of the state” and was distributed by the Nazis in Germany and other countries during World War II, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
It has been widely discredited but “the document is still being used to stir up anti-Semitic hatred” and is “the most notorious political forgery of modern times,” the ADL reports.
The PDF the FBI tweeted out does include a 1964 report from the Senate Judiciary Committee where it explicitly calls the document “fabricated,” however, it is toward the end of the 139-page PDF, after several copies of Protocols of Learned Elders of Zion, which the FBI apparently had in its records from when people sent it to them.
Given that the FBI’s tweet was just a link to a PDF with no context, it quickly was condemned online as “wildly irresponsible” and “vulnerable to ‘endorsed by the FBI!’ spin on this infamous racism.”
Many people felt that way, with the FBI’s tweet generating more than 4,000 quote tweets—most of which expressed dismay over it. Others called on the FBI to delete it or relabel it with context.
The PDF also includes records of letters sent to the FBI about the Protocols, to which then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover occasionally appeared to reply to.
This isn’t the first time the FBI’s Record Vault account has had one of its tweets be at the center of controversy.
In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, the account randomly posted 129 pages about an investigation of the William J. Clinton foundation after being dormant for almost a year.
The Department of Justice Inspector General said the tweet was due to a “technical error” in a report released in 2018.
Update 6:30pm CT: The FBI records vault account addressed the tweet on Wednesday evening.
“Earlier today FOIA materials were posted to the FBI’s Vault and FOIA Twitter account via an automated process without further outlining the context of the documents. We regret that this release may have inadvertently caused distress among the communities we serve,” the account said in a series of tweets, adding: “The FBI often receives information from members of the public, which is captured in our permanent files and released under FOIA law. The FBI must process historical files that were collected in the past, some of which may be considered offensive.”