Shortly after Elon Musk took over Twitter he decided to expose the large-scale censorship practiced by the social network during the previous administration with a series of publications called the Twitter Files in which the platform's internal conversations were revealed.
Some of the issues of public interest that have been addressed during the major disclosures are: the way they made content moderation decisions and the pressures from certain agencies towards senior executives of the social network. Here we share a list of the most relevant of the deliveries.
Censorship of Hunter Biden's story
The first installment of the Twitter Files focused on releasing a wealth of documents proving how the social network routinely manipulated information "at the behest of a political party."
From celebrities to strangers were monitored, censored and even removed from the platform, and one of the big and controversial deletions Twitter made was related to Hunter Biden's controversial story.
The social network chose to remove links, block live broadcasts and even Twitter accounts to prevent talk about the case of the president's son's laptop.
22. Although several sources recalled hearing about a “general” warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence - that I've seen - of any government involvement in the laptop story. In fact, that might have been the problem...
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
The second installment launched by journalist Bari Weiss focused on revealing the method of selective discrimination used by the social network to disadvantage certain users, limiting their visibility without even informing them.
Platform employees called the measure "visibility filtering" and it was largely used to limit topics on ideological grounds.
11. “We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do,” one Twitter engineer told us. Two additional Twitter employees confirmed.
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) December 9, 2022
Donald Trump's censorship
Journalist Matt Taibbi was in charge of publishing the third installment of the social network's disclosures and in it told how the media company decided to violate its own policies by interacting with federal agencies and agree to block or censor accountsincluding that of former President Donald Trump.
Meetings between Twitter executives and federal agencies became so ongoing that internal messages were even shared joking about the lack of descriptions "generic enough" to hide in agendas.
The removal of Trump's account
In the fourth installment, journalist Michael Shellenberger explained the steps Twitter's top executives used to cancel and permanently ban the former president.
The social network's former CEO, Jack Dorsey, decided to approve a "recidivism for civic integrity" policy based on a system in which after five infractions permanent suspension would be allowed, an ad hoc formula to oust Trump.
The decision was made because of both internal and external pressure Dorsey received from the riots that occurred on Capitol Hill.
But after the events of Jan 6, the internal and external pressure on Twitter CEO @jack grows.
— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 10, 2022
The pressure to remove Trump
The fifth installment was a third part of the Trump censorship, this time focusing on the pressure exerted by the social network's 300 employees to demand Trump's ban even though the staff itself found no real reason to do so.
The former president had not actually violated any of Twitter's policies so they had to create a new option to remove him from the platform.
The links between Twitter and the FBI
The sixth part of the Twitter Files series was called: Twitter, the FBI's subsidiary. This installment was about how the government collected, analyzed and flagged social media content to request action against users and publications.
Between 2020 and 2022 alone, there were more than 150 emails between the FBI and Twitter's former head of Trust and Safety, Yoel Roth. Among the messages are large agency requests including an extensive list of accounts to verify.
https://t.co/ZQeb9Ko06p an internal email from November 5, 2022, the FBI’s National Election Command Post, which compiles and sends on complaints, sent the SF field office a long list of accounts that “may warrant additional action”: pic.twitter.com/yILcgjFyev
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 16, 2022
The FBI's partisan performance
The Twitter threads in this section emphasized how the federal agency came to act as an intermediary between the social network and other U.S. Intelligence agencies, including those that were barred from domestic operations.
In addition, it was pointed out that the requests to the platform made Yoel Roth feel indignant because he considered that they were "more appropriate for a congressional commission than for the Office".
FBI in the censorship of the Hunter Biden case
Michael Shellenberger used this installment to tell how the federal agency debunked information related to the president's son's laptop case both before and after the story was first published.
The journalist revealed that the FBI was on notice that the story would be published, so he decided to go ahead and ask Twitter to say that there was a Russian hacking operation (which did not actually exist) and that all the information on Hunter Biden's laptop was part of it. The social network managed to almost immediately prevent everything that came out about the president's son.
7. At 9:22 pm ET (6:22 PT), FBI Special Agent Elvis Chan sends 10 documents to Twitter’s then-Head of Site Integrity, Yoel Roth, through Teleporter, a one-way communications channel from the FBI to Twitter. pic.twitter.com/7j59zfBuJQ
— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 19, 2022
The concealment of operations that influenced public opinion
In this section of the Twitter Files, journalist Lee Fang revealed that the platform gave special protection to a few psychological influence operations of the armydespite the social network's allegedly "concerted efforts" to prevent users from being manipulated through misleading, state-backed advertising.
The social network not only gave some of the government-affiliated accounts more visibility, but also exempted them from spam/abuse banners despite the narrative they used against various countries.
Manipulation of information about covid
In a new thread of posts, journalist David Zweig told how the government pressured Twitter and other platforms to "elevate certain content and suppress others" about the coronavirus. The social network discredited important opinions of doctors and scientists who opposed vaccines or mentioned their risks.
How did Twitter let Intelligence agencies in?
Matt Taibbi was in charge of two installments of the Twitter Files based on how the social network ended up becoming the the "belly button" of the FBI. The President said that it all started after a great deal of pressure from the Democrats through the media over the platform's alleged lack of response to Russian influence.
Twitter came to suffer a "public relations crisis" due to the amount of criticism it was receiving, which led it to give in to requests for moderation that gradually increased and became a big problem that had no return.
30.“REPORTERS NOW KNOW THIS IS A MODEL THAT WORKS”
This cycle – threatened legislation, wedded to scare headlines pushed by congressional/intel sources, followed by Twitter caving to moderation asks – would later be formalized in partnerships with federal law enforcement. pic.twitter.com/DWSlHkk2cm
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
Censorship pressure from pharmaceutical giants
In two separate installments it became clear how vaccine manufacturers pressured the social network to conveniently censor those who opposed vaccines or called for generic options.
The first thread of posts on this topic was made by reporter Alex Berenson about how the Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Pfizer CEO and former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged Twitter to take action against two doctors who made publications that could affect the pharmaceutical giant's sales.
On the other hand, journalist Lee Fang revealed that Moderna and Pfizer asked to censor users who made posts supporting low-cost vaccines.
The Left's insistence on Russiagate
Matt Taibbi posted that Twitter executives told the congressmen and their teams that there were no Russian bots supporting the Trump campaign in 2016 as they alleged. Despite this, congressional Democrats and the leftist media pressed the issue and continued to publish complaints.
3.Twitter officials were aghast, finding no evidence of Russian influence:
“We are feeding congressional trolls.”
“Not any…significant activity connected to Russia.”
“Putting the cart before the horse assuming this is propaganda/bots.” pic.twitter.com/r8O21QacME
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 12, 2023
The great media fraud
The 15th installment dealt with how the famous website Hamilton 68, which supposedly monitored Russian influence on the social network ended up being a complete sham to target legitimate right-wing profiles and accuse them of being Russian bots.
"For years, the media quoted [Clint] Watts and Hamilton 68 when they claimed that Russian bots were "amplifying" an endless parade of causes on social media: against the attacks in Syria, in support of the anchorwoman of FoxLaura Ingraham, Donald Trump's campaigns and Bernie Sanders." recalled the journalist, highlighting that Twitter later realized that there was no evidence to support the information in Hamilton 68.