TL;DR -> Twitter Files Parts 1 through 5
You quick read summaries of parts one through five
There is a LOT of information out there on the infamous “Twitter Files” - the release and analysis of internal documents made available to select journalists after the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk in late 2022.
The “Twitter Files” are really Tweet “threads” - quick digestible chains of info complemented by full articles published by a small set of writers including Bari Weiss, Matt Taibbi, Michael Schellenberger, David Zweig and others.
There are currently 10 releases threads of Twitter Files. Here’s a quick summary with links to the threads:
Twitter Files #1
A series of internal documents o at Twitter revealed that the social media platform has been actively manipulating speech and suppressing certain stories and accounts. The documents show that Twitter has been adding barriers to free speech over time, initially to combat spam and financial fraudsters but eventually being used to manipulate speech at the behest of outsiders, including political parties. In 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored, but the system was not balanced as it was based on contacts and Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, giving more channels and ways to complain to the Left than the Right.
This led to a slant in content moderation decisions, according to multiple current and former high-level executives. One example of this is the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story in October 2020, which saw Twitter remove links and post warnings that it may be "unsafe," block its transmission via direct message, and lock the White House spokeswoman out of her account for tweeting about it. The story was removed for violating Twitter's "hacked materials" policy, but the documents show that this policy was not consistently applied and was selectively enforced. The documents also reveal that Twitter has allowed certain accounts to remain active despite violating the company's policies, particularly if they were deemed to be "newsworthy." This included allowing accounts associated with foreign governments and politicians to remain active, even if they were engaging in disinformation and manipulation. The documents also show that Twitter has been aware of the proliferation of bots on the platform but had not taken sufficient action to combat them.
Supplemental to Twitter Files #1
The second installment of the Twitter Files was delayed after the firing of Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker, who was reportedly reviewing the documents. Baker has a controversial history, including involvement at the FBI, pushing the Steele Dossier, the Alfa-Server scandal, and resigned in 2018 after an investigation into leaks to the press. The Twitter Files documents were being delivered to journalists Bari Weiss and Matt Taibbi through a lawyer close to new management at Twitter, and the initial batch of documents were marked "Spectra Baker Emails” indicating that some of the data may have been filtered BEFORE they made it to the journalists. After 2 days another edition dropped:
Twitter Files #2
The Twitter Files Part Two investigated claims that Twitter employees build blacklists and limit the visibility of certain accounts or tweets in secret, without informing users. This practice, referred to as "Visibility Filtering" or "VF," is said to include blocking searches of individual users, limiting the scope of a tweet's discoverability, preventing certain users' posts from appearing on the trending page, and blocking inclusion in hashtag searches.
The investigation cites examples of individuals, including our friend Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Dan Bongino. It was revealed that their tweets were prevented from trending or their accounts were given a "Search Blacklist" or "Do Not Amplify" designation. Twitter has previously denied engaging in shadow banning, stating that it does not restrict visibility based on political viewpoints or ideology. The investigation also mentions a group called the Strategic Response Team - Global Escalation Team (SRT-GET), which handles a large volume of "cases" related to user visibility on a daily basis. A more exclusive group, known as the Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support (SIP-PES), is said to make the most politically sensitive decisions and includes senior Twitter executives such as the Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust and the Global Head of Trust & Safety. The investigation cites the example of user @libsoftiktok, whose account was placed on the Trends Blacklist and designated as "Do Not Take Action on User Without Consulting With SIP-PES." Despite being suspended multiple times, internal SIP-PES documents reportedly acknowledged that @libsoftiktok had not violated Twitter's Hateful Conduct policy. The investigation also claims that Twitter's SIP-PES group failed to take action when @libsoftiktok was doxxed and received death threats, while taking swift action against other users who were not threatening violence. The investigation concludes by stating that Twitter's VF practices are not transparent and that the company should be more forthcoming about its use of blacklists and visibility filters.
Twitter Files #3
This Twitter thread is an investigation into the removal of Donald Trump from the platform in January 2021, following the incidents on Jan 6, 2021 at the US Capitol. The thread claims that Twitter executives made decisions to violate their own policies in the months leading up to the riots, potentially under pressure from federal agencies. The thread notes that Twitter has a range of tools for manipulating visibility, which were used against Trump and others before the riots. The thread asserts that, before the events of that day, there was tension between a rules-based approach to moderation and the subjective decisions of senior executives, who made content rulings on the fly. Twitter executives were in communication with federal enforcement and intelligence agencies about moderation of election-related content. After the riots, the thread alleges that Twitter executives enjoyed increased relationships with federal agencies and began preparing to ban future presidents and White Houses. Taibbi concludes by stating that it will release further internal communications from the key dates of January 7th and 8th.
Twitter Files #4
Former candidate for California Governor Michal Shellenberger had the next Twitter Files. On January 7, 2021, Twitter executives created justifications to permanently ban Donald Trump and sought a change in policy specifically for Trump, showing no concern for the free speech or democracy implications of such a ban. For years, Twitter had resisted calls to ban Trump, stating in 2018 that it would "hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions" and hide important information. However, after the events of January 6, 2021 there was significant internal and external pressure on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to ban Trump. Many public figures, including Michelle Obama and Chris Sacca, called for a permanent ban on Trump's account. Dorsey was on vacation at the time and delegated much of the decision-making to senior executives Yoel Roth and Vijaya Gadde. The majority of Twitter's staff and executives were progressive, (with a significant percentage of political donations going to Democrats.) On January 7, Dorsey sent an email to employees stating that Twitter needed to remain consistent in its policies, including allowing users to return to the platform after a temporary suspension. However, Roth later announced that Dorsey had approved a new approach, allowing for the permanent suspension of accounts with five violations, or "strikes." This decision was made despite the fact that it went against Twitter's previous policies and could potentially affect other political leaders. Twitter ultimately permanently suspended Trump's account on January 8, citing the risk of further incitement of violence.
Twitter Files #5
On January 8, 2021, pressure grew on Twitter to permanently ban President Donald Trump's account due to his involvement in “inciting the mob” that stormed the US Capitol on January 6. Many Twitter employees, who were largely progressive, organized to demand Trump's ban and over 300 employees signed an open letter to CEO Jack Dorsey calling for the ban. However, the Twitter staff assigned to evaluate Trump's tweets concluded that he had not violated the platform's policies. In the early afternoon of January 8, Twitter's safety team decided that Trump's tweets did not violate their policies and were not in violation of the platform's rules. Twitter ultimately decided to permanently suspend Trump's account due to the risk of further incitement of violence. In the past, Twitter had resisted calls to ban world leaders on the grounds that it was important for people to be able to see and debate their words and actions. However, Twitter has also banned or imposed other restrictions on the accounts of leaders in other countries, including Iran, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. The decision to ban Trump was met with both support and criticism, with some stating that it was necessary to prevent further violence and others arguing that it set a dangerous precedent for the censorship of political leaders.
More to come!