Musk revealed what led Twitter to suppress the Hunter Biden story in the final weeks of the 2020 presidential election.
Ultimately, Musk outsourced his findings to Substack journalist Matt Taibbi, who published a lengthy thread on what had transpired at Twitter.
“Some of the first tools for controlling speech were designed to combat the likes of spam and financial fraudsters. Slowly, over time, Twitter staff and executives began to find more and more uses for these tools. Outsiders began petitioning the company to manipulate speech as well: first a little, then more often, then constantly,” wrote Taibbi. “By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine. One executive would write to another: ‘More to review from the Biden team.’ The reply would come back: ‘Handled.'”
Taibbi shared a screenshot of that October 2020 exchange that featured links to tweets Biden’s team allegedly wanted removed.
As an example, in 2020, the Trump White House and the Biden campaign both made requests, which were honored. However, “This system was not balanced,” Taibbi wrote. “It was based on contacts. Because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, there were more channels, more ways to complain, open to the left (well, Democrats) than the right.”
“The resulting slant in content moderation decisions is visible in the documents you’re about to read. However, it’s also the assessment of multiple current and former high-level executives,” teased the journalist.
After that, he quickly shifted to the “Twitter Files” regarding the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Taibbi tweeted “there’s no evidence – that I’ve seen” that the federal government suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story, but “the decision was made at the highest levels of the company, but without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey, with former head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde playing a key role.”
“‘They just freelanced it,’ is how one former employee characterized the decision. ‘Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it,’” wrote Taibbi.
Taibbi then shared a screenshot of an exchange between Gadde, Twitter’s former Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth and Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy, who said, “I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe.”
“Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” Borrman asked at the time, according to a separate screenshot shared by Taibbi.
In response, Twitter’s former Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker said, “I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked” adding, “it’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted.”
In response, Taibbi revealed that Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna contacted Gadde about the “backlash re speech,” noting that Khanna “was the only Democratic official I could find in the files who expressed concern.”
He replied by “diving into the weeds” of Twitter’s policy, but Khanna warned Gadde that “this seems [to be] a violation of the 1st Amendment principles.”
“I say this as a total Biden partisan and convinced that he didn’t do anything wrong. But the story now has become more about censorship than relatively innocuous emails and it’s becoming a bigger deal than it would have been,” wrote Khanna.
Tabibbi’s viral thread shed light on a report Twitter received from the research firm NetChoice “within a day” that allegedly polled at least “12 members of Congress – 9 Republicans and 3 Democrats” about the backlash the company received on Capitol Hill at the time. In a recent report, NetChoice warned Twitter of a blood bath that would await them in Washington, and that one figure from Capitol Hill compared its actions to “tech’s Access Hollywood moment.”
Democrat lawmakers expressed, based on NetChoice’s report to Twitter allegedly seen by Taibbi, that social media needed more moderation, noting that “the First Amendment isn’t absolute.”
Using an email he sent to Gadde of an article he wrote which was critical of Twitter’s actions, Taibbi emphasized Dorsey’s apparent ignorance about various actions Twitter took without his knowledge.
“There are multiple instances in the files of Dorsey intervening to question suspensions and other moderation actions, for accounts across the political spectrum,” tweeted Taibbi.
Taibbi cited “several sources” that said Twitter’s “hack materials” policy normally required a law enforcement or official finding of a hack. However, such a finding was never made during what one executive called a ‘whirlwind’ 24-hour period for the company.
James Woods was swept up in Taibbi’s Twitter thread, revealing that the DNC had requested removal of one of his tweets from October 2020. The DNC’s campaign to silence Woods will be litigated, he told reporters.
According to Taibbi, it was a “whirlwind 96 hours for me” but he teased, “There is much more to come, including answers to questions about issues like shadow-banning, boosting, follower counts, the fate of various individual accounts, and more.”
According to Musk, “Episode 2 of The Twitter Files” will be released on Saturday, along with a “live Q&A.”
The CEO has been vocal about being transparent about Twitter’s past and present actions when it comes to curating content on the platform, including censored material.
It is well known that Twitter blocked its users from sharing the New York Post’s reporting about Hunter Biden’s laptop in tweets or direct messages.
Twitter Safety at the time alleged that the articles violated the company’s “hacked materials policy.” Twitter’s then-CEO Jack Dorsey admitted the company made a mistake.
Several critics believe that the suppression of the Hunter Biden scandal by Big Tech and the media at large influenced the election in favor of his father.