When Elon Musk acquired Twitter on Oct. 27, few people knew what to expect. Based on the billionaire’s past statements, it wasn’t outlandish to expect that the platform would become friendlier to free speech. And in many ways, it has. But perhaps more significant is the mass declassification of internal documents known as the Twitter Files. The revelations from these files prove that the old Twitter was more interested in serving powerful interests than promoting free speech.
On Dec. 2, author and journalist Matt Taibbi released the first batch of the Twitter Files. His lengthy Twitter thread outlined how the social media company suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story. For those who don’t recall, on Oct. 14, 2020, the New York Post released emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop. Twitter responded by blocking access to the article.
Internal communications reveal that some Twitter employees were apprehensive about the decision. Communications official Trenton Kennedy wrote, “I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe.” Brandon Borrman, former vice president of Twitter Global Communications, asked, “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” Despite this internal pushback, Twitter persisted in pursuing this flagrantly partisan agenda.
Some have argued that this decision was not politically motivated—that the Twitter employees responsible for the move were merely blocking access to illicit pictures of Joe Biden’s son, which have no political significance. However, Hunter Biden’s emails shed light on his father’s corrupt business dealings. Given the timing, Twitter did the Biden campaign a huge favor in the 2020 election, proving that under previous management the company cared more about appeasing the Democrats than allowing people to speak their minds.
But the Democratic Party wasn’t the only powerful force that Twitter sided with against the average American. Arguably more concerning is the extent to which the social media company colluded with the federal government to stymie free speech.
In a subsequent thread, Taibbi revealed that former Head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth “not only met weekly with the FBI and DHS, but with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.” In one of these regular meetings with government agencies, Roth also reported to the FBI on Twitter’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story, which raises questions about who had the final say at Twitter. In one instance, the FBI complained to the platform about a few tweets regarding the 2020 election. Under Roth’s leadership, Twitter then applied a warning label to the tweet in question—all thanks to the FBI.
We also learned that a former FBI employee played a significant role in Twitter’s war on free speech. Jim Baker, who served as general counsel at the FBI and even participated in the Mueller investigation, went on to become deputy general counsel at Twitter. While working for the social media company, Baker said the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden may contain hacked materials, which would allow the story to be censored under Twitter’s policies. To make things worse, he even secretly vetted the first batch of the Twitter Files! Thankfully, Elon sent him packing.
The Twitter Files reporting also confirmed a suspicion shared by many on the right: Twitter shadow bans conservatives. As author and journalist Bari Weiss reported, “Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics.” This qualifies as the smoking gun on Twitter’s anti-conservative censorship agenda. Curiously, CEO Jack Dorsey previously denied this while testifying to Congress.
The Twitter Files are an ongoing project. We can expect more revelations regarding the old Twitter to come to light. Frankly, however, we have enough information to conclude that free speech was a low priority for Twitter under previous management. When given the choice, they sided with elite interests over the average American.
Things appear to be at least somewhat different with Elon Musk at the helm. While Musk has banned some, many other previously suspended accounts have been reinstated. The once elitist verification system has been opened up to the people. You’re less likely to be banned for criticizing our ruling class. And we’ve been shown just how shamefully Twitter employees behaved before Musk took over.
We don’t need Twitter to specifically cater to conservatives so long as the company protects free speech—a quintessentially American value. If the federal government, Democratic Party, or any other powerful institution has an issue with that, then too bad. In this country, we still cling to our freedoms.
Image credit: Twitter-Matt Taibbi1 comment