Twitter Files: a Watershed Moment for Trump and The Musk-Mumbunna-Correcting the New York Post Story about the Copies of Hunter Biden’s Laptop
The social media company said in a court filing that federal authorities are investigating the acquisition of the company by Musk.
In response to Twitter’s Thursday filing, Alex Spiro, Musk’s attorney, said it was designed to distract from Twitter’s own legal problems, which arose after the company’s former head of security, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, accused Twitter of long-ignored security vulnerabilities in a whistleblower disclosure.
The former Twitter officials acknowledged the Post story, based on material from Hunter Biden’s laptop, was the subject of fraught debate and confusion inside the company. They said that, in the end, they concluded that, in fact, it was the wrong call to block it. Jack Dorsey, the company’s CEO, said late in 2020 that it was the wrong call.
Last week, Musk proposed following through with his deal to buy the company at the originally agreed upon price of $54.20 per share. The judge who was handling the matter later in the week granted a request from Musk to halt the legal proceedings until October 28.
A number of tech executives and senior staff as well as multiple federal officials denied the allegations of the FBI ordering them to suppress the story.
In a separate filing on Thursday, Twitter also maintained that it did not instruct Zatko to burn several notebooks as part of a separation agreement, as Musk’s team had claimed in a filing earlier this month. Zatko destroyed the notebooks of himself, according to the micro-lending website.
Musk has hijacked the discussion with his flurry of announcements on Twitter, including dunking former employees.
Those leaked emails, which detail how Twitter suppressed a New York Post story about the copied contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, have been heralded as a watershed moment by Donald Trump’s most ardent fans. They see the so-called Twitter Files as crucial validation: proof of a previously intangible plot to suppress conservative voices online and elect Joe Biden.
According to sources at the FBI and at Twitter who spoke to CNN, none of that information was disclosed to Twitter executives trying to decide how to treat the laptop story, nor to anyone else for that matter.
The bureau is said to have pressuredTweet to moderate content and that it was corresponding with it to identify alleged foreign influence and election tampering.
One QAnoninfluencer wrote that the TWITTER files confirm Q’s main narrative. “Balenciaga confirms the rest.” That message, which references the fantastical claims about fashion brand Balenciaga’s role in child trafficking, was seen more than 120,000 times on Telegram. Even though he had some faith that his account would be restored, he still remains suspended. Other QAnon influencers seized on the fact that former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s personal email, which Taibbi failed to censor in a screenshot he shared, used the custom top-level domain .pizza.
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 was faced with a wave of threats and attacks after he resigned from the social media company, due in part to the release of internal messages that new owner Musk released through journalists.
On Wednesday, Roth testified that potential Russian interference was the frame through which Twitter viewed the Post story – even though he personally did not believe the Post article broke Twitter’s rules.
On Election Day of last year, he wrote that he was “just saying we fly over those states that voted for a racist for a reason.”
“We’ve all made some questionable tweets, me more than most, but I want to be clear that I support Yoel. My sense is that he has high integrity, and we are all entitled to our political beliefs,” Musk tweeted.
The reaction from Congress on the internal documents that Musk released about the FBI’s interactions with social media has been very strong on both sides of the aisle.
The existing moderation tools have been endorsed by Musk, and he believes they can be used to restrict visibility on accounts that break rules. “New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” he tweeted last month.
“I also am not seeing clear or coded incitement” to violence, Twitter safety staffer Anika Navaroli said in a slack message about Trump’s January 8 tweet saying: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
avaroli testified to the House committee investigating January 6 that she and other staffers had been worried about the risk of violence because of the Proud Boys’ and other conservative groups’ comments that echoed statements by Trump.
Another staffer, whose name was removed in the screenshot, said in Slack that a subsequent tweet that day from Trump saying he would not attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration was also “a clear no vio[lation].” But a different staffer questioned whether that tweet could be “proof that [Trump] doesn’t support a peaceful transition,” according to Weiss’ tweets.
Musk did not tease the bombshell in his tweet, but he did give a glimpse into how content moderation is done.
Over the past two weeks, Musk has been releasing internal documents to a handpicked group of journalists who are digging through them and posting excerpts on Twitter.
But Musk’s claims are over-hyped and he hasn’t shared any of the documents to corroborate what he already knows about policing a large social network.
Renée DiResta is research manager at theStanford Internet Observatory, she studies how narratives spread on social networks and said that people who are confronting high-stakes, unforeseen events and trying to figure out what policies apply and how are coming through in the tweet files for her.
They show Twitter executives and rank and file employees grappling with difficult tradeoffs, questioning the company’s rules and how they should be applied – and in some cases, getting things wrong.
Take Twitter’s decision right before the 2020 presidential election to briefly block users from sharing a New York Post story alleging shady business dealings by then-candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, in Ukraine.
Citing its rules against sharing hacked material containing private information, Twitter showed a warning to anyone who tried to post a link to the article saying it was “potentially harmful.” It also suspended the Post’s Twitter account until it deleted its tweets about the story.
It doesn’t show that government was involved in blocking the New York Post story, despite assertions by Musk and others.
He said that everyone acted in the best interest of the country, and that there was no ill intent or hidden agendas. “Mistakes were made.”
The internal files should be released with many more eyes and interpretations to consider, he said. There’s a lot of to learn from, he says.
Twitter is Chosen: Why Trump’s Twitter bans are viewed as a threat to the trust and safety of the American public
There is a reason to demand more information about social media companies. “Often these decisions are quite inscrutable,” she said. “These platforms shape public opinion, and the question of how they’re moderated and how they’re designed is important.”
She said Musk’s journalists should focus on charged, highly partisan American political dramas instead of leaking “anecdotes” about the full picture.
To better understand the decision to ban Trump, for example, it would help to see discussions around the accounts of other world leaders who have not been kicked off the platform, she said.
“There’s value in what’s been revealed to the public, but at the same time, it is primarily reinforcing a perception in large part based on your pre-existing opinions as partisan individuals within the United States,” DiResta said.
The Center for an informed public is a research scientist at the University of Washington.
Threats were made against each man by his tweet. Roth and his family have been forced to flee their home, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“The current attacks on my former colleagues could be dangerous and doesn’t solve anything,” Dorsey wrote on Tuesday. “If you want me to be blamed, direct it at me and my actions or lack of them.”
He has made deep cuts to the company’s trust and safety workforce, including teams focused on non-English languages and state-backed propaganda operations. 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.
Musk did not return my email seeking comment. But he appeared to claim that the sanctioned accounts had violated his new “doxxing” policy and shared what he said amounted to “assassination coordinates” on him, even though none of the journalists had, of course, done such a thing. O’Sullivan, Mac, and Harwell had reported recently on the banning of @ElonJet, the account that posted real-time updates on the whereabouts of Musk’s private jet. That is far different than doxxing him.
Does the Twitter Suspension of Drew Harwell Undermine Musk’s Claims About Free Speech?” A Comment on Silver at the New York Times
When it comes to this process, it is being processed as ownership of the last regime, which means that they can see things they didn’t see in the past.
As Nate Silver wrote, “News organizations like the NYT already had mixed feelings about their reporters using Twitter and if you can now be suspended from Twitter for doing fairly straightforward reporting, you have to wonder if that’s the tipping point.”
This article was first published in theReliable Sources newsletter. The daily digest is about the evolving media landscape.
Sally Buzbee, Executive Editor of The Post, said: “The suspension of Drew Harwell’s account directly undermines Musk’s claim that he will run a platform dedicated to free speech.” Harwell’s accurate reporting about Musk led to him being kicked out of the social networking site without warning. We should immediately bring back our journalist.
Today, those words ring empty. As Harwell told me, “Elon says he is a free speech champion and he is banning journalists for exercising free speech. I think that calls into question his commitment.
Editorial Response to “The FBI’s Own Ministry of Propaganda: How the Public Viewed a Profile of Hunter Biden’s Facebook Page reveals an alleged hacking attack”
Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him @[email protected]. His opinions are not those of the commentary. There is more opinion on CNN.
The Republican congressman from Kentucky said that the FBI should be dismantled in response to the documents.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ted Lieu of California — recently elected vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus — slammed one of the journalists that Musk picked to share the files, disputing the allegation that the FBI had stopped investigating “child sex predators or terrorists” to focus on a “surveillance operation” of people using the platform.
It’s unclear what the relationship is between these two journalists and Musk in terms of editorial freedom. Taibbi told me via a direct message that she did not work for Musk.
However, the thin-skinned Musk temporarily banned reporters from Twitter whom he falsely claimed shared his “exact real-time” location — and even those who just asked him for a quote, as The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz found out Saturday night. Is it possible for Musk to do the same if the journalists do not sell the exact story line he wants? It is not possible to know.
We need Congress to subpoena a complete set of the so-calledTwitter Files and compel Musk to testify under oath in public.
After this fact-finding has been completed, the FBI’s leadership should testify. 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.”
In preparation for the 2020 presidential election, representatives of the FBI, office of the director of national intelligence and department of homeland security met with some social media giants to discuss threat posed by foreign actors to influence our elections.
But why did officials from then-President Donald Trump’s own administration raise concerns about a state actor’s possible release of misinformation about then-candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter?
Beyond that, Taibbi alleges that the FBI began flagging certain Twitter accounts because of their content, starting in January 2020 — again under the Trump administration.
The Baldwins, the brother and nephew of Alec Baldwin, were targeted by the requests for the last month because they had been attacked by Donald Trump over their impersonate of the actor on SNL.
The then-President tweeted that the Federal Communications Commission should investigate “SNL” and even asked whether the Justice Department could do the same, The Daily Beast reported.
The bureau may protect our nation from threats in the end. The platform has lost some celebrities and others since he took over in late October, so Musk could have been trying to get more users on the right. There could be FBI wrongdoing.
“We would never go to a company to say you need to squelch this story,” said one former FBI official who helped oversee the government’s cooperation with companies including Twitter, Google and Facebook.
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. An FBI agent in the meeting declined to answer, Chan recalled, adding that she was likely not authorized to address the question because at the time the FBI had not publicly confirmed its Hunter Biden investigation.
There are enough questions raised by the internal communications that warrant calling tech executives to testify, according to Republicans on Capitol Hill.
It’s been found that an internal message from early 2021 shows that the FBI paid $3.4 million in October of 2019. In the message, an unnamed associate emails Baker saying, “I am happy to report we have collected $3,415,323 since October 2019!”
Several former intelligence officials wrote an open letter a day after the laptop story broke saying it had all the classic hallmarks 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.
FBI agents work hard to protect the American public. Conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation to try to undermine the agency.
There are a number of messages given the attention from Musk and other critics, including one that was sent by Elvis Chan, an FBI special agent based in San Francisco who is focused on cybersecurity and foreign influence on social media. On October 13th, Chan instructedRoth to download a few documents on a secure portal.
The official said eight of the documents pertained to “malign foreign influence actors and activities,” the FBI’s terminology for foreign government election meddling. The official said the other two documents were posts on Twitter the FBI flagged as potential evidence of election-related crimes, such as voter suppression activities.
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.
The information that was exchanged is about the actors, a second FBI official told CNN. We are not giving any detailed information about the content or narrative. We are not telling the platforms what to do. 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.”
To prepare for the next election, the executives set about bolstering their internal controls, including hiring former law enforcement and intelligence officials. But they also knew they had to forge a closer relationship with the US government to help root out foreign trolls and sources of disinformation.
The released communications as well as interviews with people involved in the meetings portray routine, friendly and sometimes tense contacts between company executives and the government officials with whom they regularly interacted. Among the released communications are lively exchanges between Twitter and the FBI, revealing some of the sensitivities — and tensions — at play as the government and Silicon Valley slowly figured out how to work together.
The meetings went on as planned. The first one was held at the headquarters of Facebook. Later meetings were held at Twitter and LinkedIn’s offices, a person familiar with the meetings told CNN.
By 2020, the former employees and FBI Officials say their discussions have become more 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 various points, the Twitter communications show Roth resisting pressure to reveal certain information about users absent a formal legal request, such as which third-party VPN services were used by some account-holders to access Twitter.
Others within Twitter noted the US government’s interest in Twitter’s data and urged colleagues to “stay connected and keep a solid front against these efforts.”
Republicans hold up the incident as a prime example of Silicon Valley’s alleged anti-conservative bias. More recently, seizing on the Twitter Files, they’ve pushed the claim that the government and the Biden campaign pressured Twitter to suppress the story – even though the Twitter Files disclosures do not include any evidence that was the case.
The FBI agent who played a key role in the meetings testified that he was warned about the campaign by law enforcement.
Chan was deposed this year as part of a lawsuit brought by the Missouri attorney general about government censorship of social media. The government would have only warned companies of the possibility of hack-and-leak campaigns, Chan said.
The new Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are going to hold a high-profile hearing Wednesday about President Joe Biden’s administration and family and how they were able to keep a New York Post story from being published.
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 basically want to know what the Twitter policy was with respect to how they determined what was disinformation,” Comer said. “We want to know what role the government played in encouraging Twitter to suppress certain stories and certain Twitter accounts. In order to know how much tax money was spent from government to social media, we need to know what tax dollars were spent.
Baker is one of the people who are appearing before the committee.
The Democrats plan to feature AnIKA Collier Navaroli as their witness during Wednesday’s hearing.
They cherry-pick witnesses who fit their narrative. It doesn’t matter how good and bad practices can lead to reform or regulation, it’s not an objective examination. That’s not what their objective is here” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat.
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 will ask the executives ofTwitter why they felt it was necessary to ban a member of Congress. A Georgia Republican says her account was permanently banned from the social networking site.
The account was suspended for repeated violations of the Covid-19 policy, according to the company at the time. Her account was restored in November after Musk purchased Twitter.
Tease Me Down or Just Go Back to Where You Came From? Musk, Twitter, and the House-Republican Committee on Investigating Political Bias
Democrats plan to poke holes in the Republicans allegations and question why the committee chose 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 offered him tips on lines of questioning, but he wouldn’t say more about it.
The GOP accused the company of colluding with the FBI and the Biden campaign to suppress the Post story, while others said Silicon Valley had a bias against conservatives.
“Twitter, under the leadership of our witnesses today, was a private company the federal government used to accomplish what it constitutionally cannot: limit the free exercise of speech,” committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said in his opening remarks.
“I think they made a mistake in this case because we wanted to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016,” said Yoel, who had been head of trust and safety at the time.
The House Republicans are going to use their newly-gained majority to launch investigations into the Biden administration, and what they see as the federal government being against conservatives.
Anika Collier Navaroli, a former Twitter safety policy employee called as a witness by committee Democrats, told the panel that Twitter removed the phrase “go back to where you came from” from its policy barring abuse of immigrants after Trump expressed the sentiment in a 2019 tweet targeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY) and other Democratic congresswomen.
Collier Navaroli also testified that the Trump White House had asked Twitter to remove a tweet by celebrity Chrissy Teigen insulting the president. Twitter declined to do so, but Democrats seized on her testimony to rebut Republicans’ claims of political bias.
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former chief legal officer, told the committee that she had approved the decision to block the link to the Post story on Twitter. She said in retrospect, Twitter should have immediately unlocked the newspaper’s account when it reversed that decision.
He said the decisions were not straightforward and that hindsight was a good thing. “It isn’t obvious what the right response is to a suspected but not confirmed cyberattack by another government on a presidential election.”
The split-screen format that has become the norm when lawmakers grill tech executives was followed by the Republicans accusing witnesses of censorship and the Democrats saying technology platforms have not done enough to crack down on harmful content.
Greene attacked the panel for her ban and lobbed baseless allegations against the former executives. That included echoing smears against Roth previously amplified by Musk. The threats that were made against Roth have forced him to sell his home.
Democrats blasted the premise of the hearing, accusing Republicans of wasting time and taxpayers’ money with a political crusade.