A tweet from the FBI referencing a document long associated with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories was met with an angry blowback on social media Wednesday.
The official FBI Records Vault tweeted without context “Protocols of Learned Elders of Zion” with a link to related FBI records.
“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is an infamous text from the early 20th century that falsely describes a Jewish plot to control the world.
Called the “mother of all Jewish conspiracies” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the “Protocols” made headlines during Trump’s impeachment hearings in December when former national security aide Fiona Hill called anti-George Soros conspiracy theories amplified by GOP lawmakers “the new ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’”
The FBI Records Vault tweet, however, was not a direct link to the “Protocols,” but to a PDF containing the agency’s records on the document. Along with several pages of the original document are various letters, including a 1964 memo from the Subcommittee on Internal Security that called the “Protocols” a “fabricated ‘historic’ document” and described it as “crude and vicious nonsense.”
For those unfamiliar with the FBI Records Vault Twitter account’s sparse tweets – often just a name and a link to the archival material – the tweet Wednesday was met with alarm.
“You are WILDLY IRRESPONSIBLE for tweeting this document without offering any context and framework to ensure that anyone looking at this document understands that it is one of the most dangerous embodiments of antisemitism ever produced,” tweeted one woman.
Others threatened to report the tweet as hate speech and called for it to be taken down.
While the tweet wasn’t removed as of Wednesday evening, the FBI issued the following statement to a Guardian reporter:
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 this release may have inadvertently caused distress among the communities we serve.
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.”