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Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Elon Musk Exposes Real Reason Twitter’s Censored Former President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters before boarding Air Force One for his last time as president at Joint Base Andrews, Md., on Jan. 20, 2021. (Pete Marovich/Pool/Getty Images)
Journalist Matt Taibbi published the third volume of the so-called “Twitter files” on Friday, exposing the social media platform’s censorship and deplatforming of former President Donald Trump.
The latest disclosure revealed that Twitter executives used the platform’s formidable “visibility filtering” powers against Trump ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections and that engagement with the FBI intensified before Trump was permanently suspended.
Endorsed by Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk, the “Twitter files” have exposed the social media company’s censorship machine.
The new report, report titled “The Removal of Donald Trump,” is the first of three specifically examining the actions of Twitter executives during the period from October 2020 to when Trump was deplatformed on Jan. 8, 2021.
Internal Slack chats at Twitter reveal that engagement between the company’s executives and federal law enforcement and intelligence organizations surged during this period.
“Whatever your opinion on the decision to remove Trump that day, the internal communications at Twitter between January 6th-January 8th have clear historical import,” Taibbi wrote. “Even Twitter’s employees understood in the moment it was a landmark moment in the annals of speech.”
“Is this the first sitting head of state to ever be suspended?” one Twitter employee, whose name is redacted, asked in a Slack chat that day.
The messages show that Twitter executives removed Trump in part because of what one executive called the “context surrounding” the actions of Trump and his supporters “over the course of the election and frankly last 4+ years.”
In a message to Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former head of legal policy and trust, one executive whose name is redacted provided a “quick take” formulated by internal researchers and external academics to help decide whether to censor a Trump tweet or use it “as a last straw” before banning him.
The executive said the “decision on whether to pull that particular tweet” or use it “as a last straw” for Trump depends on “the overall context and narrative in which that tweet lives.”
“Context matters and the narrative that [T]rump and his friends have pursued over the course of this election and frankly last 4+ years must be taken into account,” the executive said, according to a screenshot of internal messages.
Before Trump was banned, Twitter also created a new tool to censor the then-sitting president after the election when he was vocal with his claims of election fraud. Internally, executives referred to the tool as “L3 deamplication.”
The new tool was announced on Dec. 10, 2020, when “Trump was in the middle of firing off 25 tweets saying things like, ‘A coup is taking place in front of our eyes,'” Taibbi wrote.
On Thursday, The Free Press editor Bari Weiss, another reporter handpicked by Musk as a conduit for releasing the files, published her report on the extent of Twitter’s tools for censorship, revealing the social media company’s secret blacklists. Her report noted that executives refer to “shadow banning” as “visibility filtering.”
The FBI sent reports to Twitter executives flagging particular tweets, which were then discussed internally, resulting in action taken to censor some tweets or have warning labels slapped on others.
Twitter executives set up a dedicated chat group in October 2020 to discuss election-related removals, the files show.
Neither the Trump campaign, the Trump White House, nor “Republicans generally” sent moderation requests to Twitter, Taibbi noted.
“We looked. They may exist: we were told they do. However, they were absent here,” he wrote.
The framework for justifying banning Trump was built in the months before January 2021, when federal agencies were meeting with Twitter executives more often, according to Taibbi.
At one point, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, noted in a Slack message regarding Twitter’s censorship of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story that he had “weekly sync” meetings regarding election security with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and office of the Director of National Intelligence.
“As the election approached, senior executives—perhaps under pressure from federal agencies, with whom they met more as time progressed—increasingly struggled with rules, and began to speak of ‘vios’ as pretexts to do what they’d likely have done anyway,” Taibbi wrote.
Internal Slack chats suggest that communication lines between Twitter executives and the FBI were more intense after Jan. 6, 2021, and the chats illustrate executives’ attitudes toward the meetings.
One screenshot of internal messages showed a Slack chat from Roth about how difficult it was for him to conceal his FBI meetings in his calendar.
“I’m a big believer in calendar transparency,” Roth wrote. “But I reached a certain point where my meetings became … very interesting … to people and there weren’t meeting names generic enough to cover.”
An employee whose name is redacted, leaning into the joke, replied: “Very Boring Business Meeting That Is Definitely Not About Trump ;).”
“Preeeeeeeetty much,” Roth replied. “DEFINITELY NOT meeting with the FBI I SWEAR.”
Roth’s colleague replied, “lmao,” to indicate they found it amusing.
‘Erosion on Standards’ at Twitter
According to Taibbi, the findings expose “the erosion of standards” at Twitter, as well as actions that were undertaken by high-level executives that violated the company’s own policies in the months leading up to the events in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, prompting Twitter to ban Trump indefinitely.
Screengrabs of internal messages revealed that as soon as Twitter executives banned Trump, they began planning to ban future presidents—with one executive noting that then-incoming President Joe Biden’s administration “will not be suspended by Twitter unless absolutely necessary.”
Taibbi’s report on Trump’s ban, the first of three, on Twitter provided a number of examples, sharing screengrabs from internal Twitter communications as evidence.
Taibbi, Weiss, and author Michael Shellenberger are the three authors Musk is using to release the inner workings of Twitter prior to his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company.
On Friday, Taibbi said he, Weiss, and Shellenberger would publish three volumes dedicated to the censorship of Trump on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on Twitter.
Shellenberger’s follow-up report on Saturday “will detail the chaos inside Twitter” on the day Twitter banned Trump, while Weiss’s report on Sunday will “reveal the secret internal communications from the key date” of Jan. 8, 2021.