While it is well known that the Secret Service regularly monitors social media like Twitter and Facebook for threats, documents obtained by CREW show agents doing daily checks of accounts across the internet—including OnlyFans, Twitch and Pinterest.
In Secret Service briefing sheets from December 2020, agents were requested to conduct regular checks on several lists of Twitter, Instagram, OnlyFans, Twitch, Parler and Pinterest accounts. The majority of these accounts are shown to have been private or already inactive—one OnlyFans account was deactivated by the platform. The usernames are redacted.
While social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are known to cultivate toxic political environments often punctuated with violent rhetoric, OnlyFans and Pinterest are not known for threats against those protected by the Secret Service. It is unclear why these accounts were being monitored, sometimes daily, as the nature of the threats and account names are redacted. The briefings request flags on “direct threats, mentions of travel back to the U.S[.], etc.,” and “current whereabouts, threats toward any protectees, or mentions [of] causing violence during a protest.” Because the documents only include the monitoring requests, it is also unclear how the Secret Service began monitoring the accounts or why some were elevated to daily checking—even after they had been deactivated or closed by their respective platforms.
The documents also include five Periscope accounts flagged by Customs and Border Protection and sent to State Department officials under the subject “Jan 6th Protests” at 8:20am on January 6, 2021. Though the accounts are also redacted, it has been reported that “Stop the Steal” leader Ali Alexander said that he was in contact with several Republican representatives about the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol in several Periscope videos in December 2020.
Twitch, another live-streaming site, was also used to live-stream the January 6th insurrection and promote and fundraise on the surrounding conspiracy theories. While OnlyFans and Pinterest do not appear to be a significant source of political or violent messaging, Twitch has reportedly become something of a safe haven and significantly profitable platform for those associated with right-wing conspiracies like QAnon and vaccine misinformation. The site, owned by Amazon, is primarily known as a hub for video game streaming—but following a crackdown on misinformation on other platforms like Youtube and Facebook ahead of the 2020 election, many right-wing streamers turned to Twitch to broadcast falsehoods and political grievances.
The extent to which the Secret Service and other intelligence agencies are monitoring social media is unclear, but these documents show that it goes further than the boundaries of household name platforms like Twitter and Facebook. While the documents reveal monitoring of these new platforms outside of the usual intelligence gathering discourse, they do not reveal whether these were accounts flagged for specific threats or whether the Secret Service or other agencies are routinely scanning large but largely apolitical platforms like OnlyFans and Pinterest for potential threats. It is also unknown whether the monitoring of these platforms was a Trump-era practice that ceased after he left office or an ongoing effort by the federal government.
Regardless, the documents show that the Secret Service is watchful for online threats across a much wider array of social media content than previously known. What it did with the threats it found, however, is another question.