FBI agents and tech executives deny government ordered them to suppress a story
The Twitter Files: An Investigation of Musk’s Twitter Failure to Comply a Twitter Buy, Sell, or Fail: Playing with the Crowd
After months spent trying to escape the deal he signed to acquire Twitter, Elon Musk now says he intends to complete the purchase after all. In a letter to Twitter, filed with the SEC today, Musk said he would honor his deal to buy the company for the originally agreed price of $54.20 per share. Twitter said today that it intended to close the deal.
Although Musk has suggested in public statements since he first questioned the deal in May that he could easily walk away from his $44 billion commitment, legal experts were not surprised by the U-turn.
The theory said that there was an enemy in one of the top lawyers. Musk fired him on Tuesday. It suggests that a new pattern atTwitter HQ: Play to the crowd.
The material that came to light ahead of the trial due to start on October 17 in Delaware’s Chancery Court did not lend much support to that argument. Miller says there is no evidence of fraud here because the man knows his best claim is fraud. They have run out of cards.
Musk’s decision to fold may also have been influenced by the potential for the trial to damage him personally. The entrepreneur watched the internet chew over a tranche of his personal text messages with major figures in Silicon Valley last week. This week he faced what Miller says would likely have been “a very embarrassing” deposition.
It is not clear which agencies may be carrying out the probe, and Twitter did not identify what specific actions by Musk US officials may be investigating. Authorities are looking at Musk’s conduct as part of the deal, according to a filing from the micro-blogging site.
The company’s court filing elsewhere accused Musk’s legal team of failing to produce draft communications with the Securities and Exchange Commission and a slide presentation to the Federal Trade Commission as part of the two sides’ ongoing litigation over whether Musk can walk away from the deal.
At the heart of the controversy is Twitter’s decision in October 2020 to block users from sharing a New York Post story containing material from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden. Conservative critics have accused Twitter of suppressing the story at the behest of the FBI, something they claim the released communications, dubbed the “Twitter Files,” demonstrate.
The filing by the company said that it didn’t ask Zatko to torch his own documents. It was not known who Zatko’s notebooks contained and no idea what information they contained.
The exchange of secret files relating to Hunter Biden may have been related to the leaked messages by Musk and his conservative allies. But CNN’s interviews with people directly involved with the interactions and with those who have reviewed the documents disprove those claims.
Major news outlets were unable to corroborate the contents of the laptop that foreign intelligence officials identified as possible Russian interference and held off on the story. Users were temporarily prevented from posting the Post story in their communications with each other.
After the 2016 election, social media executives knew they had a problem. Russian operatives had used their platforms to run a massive covert influence campaign to help elect Donald Trump, using bots to spread disinformation and sow division among Americans.
“The Twitter Files confirm Q’s entire main narrative,” one QAnon influencer wrote. “Balenciaga confirms the rest.” The message on Telegram was seen more than 100,000 times and references the claims that a fashion brand played a role in child trafficking. Although there was some optimism that the account would be restored, it wasn’t. The fact that Taibbi failed to censor an email which he shared and used a custom top-level domain was seized on by other QAnon contributors.
Twitter’s former head of trust and safety has fled his home due to an escalation in threats resulting from Elon Musk’s campaign of criticism against him, a person familiar with the matter told CNN on Monday.
Yoel Roth, who resigned from the social media company in November, has in recent weeks faced a storm of attacks and threats of violence following the release of the so-called “Twitter Files” — internal Twitter communications that new owner Musk has released through journalists including Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss.
Tweets posted by Roth in 2016 and 2017 that were critical of then-President Trump and his supporters were later surfaced and used to argue that Roth and Twitter were biased against the president.
He wrote on Election Day that they should fly over the states that voted for a racist.
I want to be clear about my support of Yoel, because I have made some questionable social media posts. My sense is that he has high integrity, and we are all entitled to our political beliefs,” Musk tweeted.
He reinstated thousands of accounts that had been banned for breaking the rules, but he won’t allow Alex Jones or any other theorist who has spoken out against the Jewish people. How that meshes with Musk’s embrace of free speech principles is not clear.
Over the past two weeks Musk has been releasing internal documents to a small group of journalists who are digging through them.
Many tech journalists and social media experts say that Musk’s claims are overblown since the documents shared so far overwhelmingly corroborate what is already known about the messy business of policing a large social network.
“What is really coming through in the Twitter Files for me is: people who are confronting high-stakes, unanticipated events and trying to figure out what policies apply and how,” said Renée DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who studies how narratives spread on social networks.
In some cases, getting things wrong, they show employees and executives grappling with tradeoffs and questioning the company’s rules.
When Joe Biden was running in the presidential race, a New York Post story about his son’s business dealings in Ukraine caused a brief halt to sharing on the social media network.
Citing its rules against sharing hacked material containing private information, the company showed a warning to anyone who tried to post a link to the article saying it was “potentially harmful.” The New York Post’s own account was suspended after they deleted their mentions of the story. (Facebook was alarmed by the article, too, but didn’t go as far as Twitter. It allowed the link to be posted, but limited distribution of those posts while its outside fact-checkers reviewed the claims.)
The backlash was massive across the political spectrum. The company was slammed for taking a heavy-handed approach to a story that, while controversial, was being reported by a major news outlet, and for offering little justification for its decision. Within a week, the block was reversed and new policies on hacked material were adopted. Soon after, then-CEO Jack Dorsey said the company had made a mistake.
And it does not show any evidence that there was government involvement in the move to block the New York Post story, despite assertions by Musk and others.
“I continue to believe there was no ill intent or hidden agendas, and everyone acted according to the best information we had at the time,” he wrote. “Of course mistakes were made.”
He said he wished the internal files had been “released Wikileaks-style, with many more eyes and interpretations to consider.” He said that there is nothing to hide and only a lot to learn from.
Elton Musk Is Using Twitter Files to Discredit Foes and Push Conspiracy Theorem: An Insider’s Perspective
DiResta said there’s good reason to demand more insight into how social media companies operate. “Often these decisions are quite inscrutable,” she said. “These platforms shape public opinion and the question of how they are moderated and how they are designed is important.”
She said to get the full picture, outsiders need more than “anecdotes” Musk’s journalists are sharing that focus on highly partisan American political dramas.
She said that it would help to see discussions about the accounts of other world leaders who have not been kicked off the platform because of the decision to ban Trump.
DiResta said that it’s primarily reinforcing a perception of partisan individuals within the United States as a result of what is revealed to the public.
A researcher at the University of Washington’s center for aninformed public said that framing the disclosures as secret knowledge works well on social media.
His tweets triggered violent threats against both men. A person familiar with the situation said that the family had been forced to flee their home.
The current attacks on my former colleagues are not going to solve any of the problems. “If you want to blame, direct it at me and my actions, or lack thereof.”
He has made cuts to the company’s trust and safety workforce, including teams of people who aren’t English. This week, Twitter disbanded its external Trust and Safety Council, some of whose members had come under online attack after Musk criticized them.
The CEO’s willingness to target people working to keep the platform’s users safe, including through the Twitter Files releases, is creating a “chilling effect,” according to one Trust and Safety Council member, who requested anonymity due to concerns of retaliation.
But Musk has hijacked the conversation with his enthusiasm and zeal, for example by dunking the former employees of the company in his gleeful tweets.
Why is Twitter Distinguishable from Free Speech? Comments on the Suspension of Drew Harwell’s Twitter Account and Implications for Elon Musk
“It is being processed to the point that it’s like owning the last regime, where we can see things in the files, but we’re not allowed to change anything under our watch,” he said.
The Times said in a separate statement of its own, “Tonight’s suspension of the Twitter accounts of a number of prominent journalists, including The New York Times’s Ryan Mac, is questionable and unfortunate. Both The Times and Ryan haven’t received an explanation about what happened. We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action.”
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And The Post’s Executive Editor, Sally Buzbee, said: “The suspension of Drew Harwell’s Twitter account directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech. Harwell was banned from the social network without notice or explanation after he reported accurately about Musk. Our journalist should be reinstated immediately.”
Those words are empty today. As Harwell told me, “Elon says he is a free speech champion and he is banning journalists for exercising free speech. I think that raises questions about his commitment.
It will be interesting — and telling — to see whether some of Musk’s supporters in right-wing media, who have cheered him on for his pro-free speech rhetoric, speak out against these bans.
The company would be lifting the suspensions after the results of a public poll on the site. The poll showed 58.7% of respondents favored a move to immediately unsuspend accounts over 41.3% who said the suspensions should be lifted in seven days.
The company has not explained why the accounts were taken down. But Musk took to Twitter on Thursday night to accuse journalists of sharing private information about his whereabouts, which he described as “basically assassination coordinates.” He provided no evidence for that claim.
Most of the accounts were back early Saturday. One exception was Business Insider’s Linette Lopez, who was suspended after the other journalists, also with no explanation, she told The Associated Press.
Shortly before being suspended, she said she had posted court-related documents to Twitter that included a 2018 Musk email address. That address is not current, Lopez said, because “he changes his email every few weeks.”
The Mashable Reporter Correspondence Suspensions: “We’re Going After Donie O’ Sullivan, and I’m sorry, but we’re afraid of you”
The move sets “a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats and even worse,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Several reporters were suspended Thursday night because they wrote about the new policy and Musk’s reasons for imposing it, including his allegations that he and his family were subjected to harassment in Los Angeles.
Mastodon’s official Twitter account was also banned, as many users flee the alternative social network. The reason was unclear, though it had tweeted about the jet-tracking account. Twitter also began preventing users from posting links to Mastodon accounts, in some cases flagging them as potential malware.
CNN said in a statement that the suspension of a number of reporters, including Donie O’ Sullivan, was concerning but not surprising.
Matt Binder, suspended journalist for the technology news outlet Mashable, said Thursday he was banned because of a post O’ Sullivan had made.
The Los Angeles Police Department gave a statement to several media outlets about how it was with Musk’s representatives about the stalking incident.
He has promised to allow free speech and has restored accounts that previously broke the rules. He has also said he would suppress negativity and hate by depriving some accounts of “freedom of reach.”
She said the new regime had the same problem, as the old one did, and that she oppose it in both cases.
If the suspensions lead to the exodus of media organizations that are highly active on Twitter, the platform would be changed at the fundamental level, said Lou Paskalis, longtime marketing and media executive and former Bank of America head of global media.
CBS temporarily suspended its social media activity in November due to uncertainty about the new management, but most of the media organizations stayed on the platform.
“We’re going to go after journalists for seeing the main tent pole of the main source of news on the internet,” he said. “Driving journalists off Twitter is the biggest self-inflicted wound I can think of.”
The suspensions may be the biggest red flag yet for advertisers, Paskalis said, some of which had already cut their spending on Twitter over uncertainty about the direction Musk is taking the platform.
On Thursday night, the Spaces conference chat went down after Musk left a session hosted by a journalist in which he was questioned about the reporters’ ousting. Musk later tweeted that Spaces had been taken offline to deal with a “Legacy bug.” Late Friday, Spaces returned.
Advertisers are also monitoring the potential loss of Twitter users. Insider Intelligence said that the social network will lose 32 million users over the next two years due to technical issues and the return of banned accounts.
In the day after Musk took over, Mastodon had 3.4 million users, but on Friday it had more than 6 million. On many of the thousands of confederated networks in the open-source Mastodon platform, administrators and users solicited donations as disaffected Twitter users strained computing resources. Many of the networks, known as “instances,” are crowd-funded. The platform is designed to be ad-free.
Do you think the FBI is its own ministry of propaganda? A comment on the case of Dean Obeidallah, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee
Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on his official account with the handle: Dean Obeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
The incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee said the FBI needs to be dismantled after receiving the so-called “Twitter Files”.
Lieu was elected vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus and he slammed one of the journalists that Musk picked to share the files, denying the allegation that the FBI had stopped investigating child sex predators or terrorists.
The relationship between the two journalists and Musk is not known, and it is unclear what that relationship is. Taibbi told me that she did not work for Musk in any way, shape or form.
Beyond that, the FBI’s leadership should testify after this fact-finding has been completed. The bureau should welcome this opportunity, given the smears by certain GOP lawmakers such as Comer that “the FBI had its own ministry of propaganda.”
For starters, in the run-up to the 2020 election, representatives of the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security met with social media giants such as Twitter to discuss threats posed by foreign actors to influence our elections.
Why did officials from the Trump administration raise doubts about a possible release of misinformation about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter?
Taibbi alleges that the FBI flagged some of the accounts because of their content, again under the Trump administration.
The requests continued through the end of the month, and they targeted Billy Baldwin, the brother of Alec Baldwin, a man who had previously been attacked by the Trump administration over his performance on SNL.
The president asked the justice department if they could do the same thing as he suggested that the FCC investigate SNL.
The bureau may be protecting the nation from threats. Musk could be trying to attract more users on the right by going after the FBI as some celebrities and others have left the platform. Or there could be FBI wrongdoing.
The Massachusetts Democrat wrote a letter to the chair of the electric car company, saying that shareholders might be hurt if the board doesn’t do enough to address the issues it poses.
Since Musk disclosed in early April that he had taken a major stake in Twitter, the Tesla’s shares have plunged by about 58%, a selloff that has erased nearly $800 billion of market value. Musk, who recently lost his status as the world’s richest person, has repeatedly unloaded Tesla shares in recent months, including another $3.6 billion worth earlier this month.
Noting Tesla’s board has legal obligations it must fulfill, Warren asked the board to respond to a series of questions about its handling of the situation by January 3.
Hunter Biden’s laptop and the FBI: What have we learned from 10 years of government cooperation? Deputy Chief of State of the FBI for Social Media Operations, James Clapper, Tim Baker and CNN
A former FBI official who worked on the government’s cooperation with social media companies said that they would never try to get companies to stop reporting on the story.
Chan also testified that government agents never raised Hunter Biden specifically, and that his name came up only when a Facebook analyst asked specifically for relevant information. Chan said that she wasn’t authorized to address the question because the FBI hadn’t confirmed its Hunter Biden investigation at the time.
While the released Twitter messages have yet to reveal a smoking gun showing the government ordered a social media company to suppress a story, Republicans on Capitol Hill say there are enough questions raised by the internal communications to merit calling tech executives to testify.
According to a copy of Baker’s opening statement reviewed by CNN, he plans to testify that there is nothing illegal about how the Hunter Biden laptop situation should have been handled. Even though many people disagreed with how the Hunter Biden matter was handled, my client acted in a way that was in line with the First Amendment.
Comer also wants to hear from several former US intelligence officials who, days after the laptop story broke, wrote an open letter saying it had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” The group of former officials who signed the letter included former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who, as a CNN contributor, appeared on the network to express his view.
“The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public. It is unfortunate that people like conspiracy theorists and others are trying to create misinformation about the agency with the intent of damaging it.
A team reviewing the internal communications released by Musk identified 10 documents Chan sent toRoth, according to the FBI. “I reviewed all 10 of these documents personally and I can say explicitly there is nothing in these 10 documents about Hunter Biden’s laptop or about any related story to that,” an FBI official involved in the review told CNN.
The documents about malign foreign influence actors and activities were from the FBI. The FBI flagged the two other documents as potential evidence of election-related crimes, such as voter suppression activities, according to the official.
The FBI says the bureau is obligated under federal law to reimburse companies for the cost they incur to satisfy subpoenas and other legal requests as part of the FBI’s investigative work.
“All the information exchanged is about the actors and their activity,” a second FBI official who reviewed the communications told CNN. “What we are not providing is specifics about the content and the narrative. We don’t want the platforms to do anything. We are just providing it for them to do as they see fit under their own terms of service to protect their platforms and customers.”
Hiring former law enforcement and intelligence officials is one of the ways that executives are bolstering their internal controls to prepare for the next election. They knew that they had to forge a closer relationship with the US government to root out foreign troll armies.
“Early on, who hosted the meeting was also a political football,” said a person familiar with the meetings between the government and Silicon Valley. “Each company wanted someone else to. There were worries about employees seeing a bunch of feds and leaking it in an inaccurate way.”
Nevertheless, the meetings went ahead. The first one was held at the headquarters of Facebook. The person that spoke to CNN said that the later meetings were held at the offices ofLinkedIn andTwitter.
Former Twitter employees and FBI officials involved say that by 2020, their discussions had become better coordinated and useful to both sides. One indicator of how advantageous the relationship had become: By 2020, Facebook was issuing press releases about some of the discussions.
At the same time, the communication showsRoth resisting pressure to reveal information about users that are not part of a formal legal request.
Those within the social network urged colleagues to stay connected and keep their heads up against the efforts of the US government.
In December 2020, the government warned of hack-and-leak incidents that would target people associated with political campaigns. Roth said that he learned in the meetings with government agencies there were “rumors that a hack-and-leak operation would involve Hunter Biden.”
Roth did not point to the government as the source of the rumor, but his claim that law enforcement agencies gave general warnings about disinformation campaigns dovetails with recent testimony from Chan, the FBI agent who played a key role in the meetings.
Chan was deposed this year as part of a lawsuit brought by the Missouri attorney general alleging government censorship of social media. Chan disputed that the government told social media companies to “expect” hack-and-leak campaigns, saying that it would have only warned companies it was a possibility.
Three former Twitter executives are testifying Wednesday at the House Oversight Committee over Twitter’s decision to temporarily suppress a New York Post story regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop, in what’s set to be the first high-profile hearing for the new Republican majority investigating President Joe Biden’s administration and family.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer – a Kentucky Republican who has launched a broad investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings – is probing the social media giant in the wake of Twitter’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk releasing internal communications from Twitter staff about the decision to temporarily block users from sharing the New York Post story in the closing weeks of the 2020 presidential election campaign season.
We want to know how they decided what was and was not a lie on social media. There is a need for us to know what the government did to encourage the suppression of certain stories. If tax dollars were spent on the social media site, we would like to know, so that we can look into it.
In addition to Baker, Twitter’s former Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde and former Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth are appearing before the committee.
Anika Collier – a former employee of social networking site Twitter who went public with her work – will be a witness for the Democrats.
They are picking witnesses that fit their narrative. It’s not like an objective examination of how Twitter functions and good and bad practices that could lead to genuine reform or regulation. Rep. Connolly stated that their objective was not what they were aiming for.
Raskin plans to say in his opening statement that in the lead-up to January 6, 2021, Twitter “became the national and global platform for incitement to seditious violence against our government and a forum on the day of attack for coordinating logistical movements and tactical maneuvers in the mob violence against our officers,” according to an excerpt from his prepared remarks.
“I’ll get to ask the executives of Twitter why they felt they could ban a member of Congress — permanently being a member of Congress. The account of a lawmaker was banned for nearly a year.
Greene’s account was suspended last January for repeated violations of Twitter’s Covid-19 misinformation policy, the company said at the time. She had her account restored in November.
The Macroscopic Account of the Post-Laboratory Debate: Musk, McCarthy, Comer, and the CP-Violating Committee
Democrats say they intend to poke holes in the Republican allegations surrounding the laptop story – while questioning the committee’s decision to hold the hearing in the first place.
Ahead of the hearing, Musk traveled to Capitol Hill and met with a number of House Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Comer. The Kentucky Republican said that Musk gave him tips during questioning, though he declined to give more information ahead of the hearing.