Independent journalist Matt Taibbi released the third installment of The Twitter Files on Friday, focusing on the company’s collusion with the FBI, and its decision to ban former President Donald Trump and other conservatives shortly after January 6, 2021, Capitol protest.
Taibbi reported that there was an “erosion of standards” within the company in the months leading to the January 6, 2021 event. “decisions by high-ranking executives to violate their own policies,” and more, going on “against the backdrop of ongoing, documented interaction with federal agencies.”
“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. Even Twitter’s employees understood in the moment it was a landmark moment in the annals of speech,” wrote Taibbi.
He further shared a screenshot of internal Twitter communication that read: “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. Even Twitter’s employees understood in the moment it was a landmark moment in the annals of speech,”
After suspending President Trump, top executives at the company started processing their new power and considered suspending future presidents, even Joe Biden.
6. As soon as they finished banning Trump, Twitter execs started processing new power. They prepared to ban future presidents and White Houses – perhaps even Joe Biden. The “new administration,” says one exec, “will not be suspended by Twitter unless absolutely necessary.” pic.twitter.com/lr66YgDlGy
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 9, 2022
More screenshots of internal communications revealed that executives considered taking “action to limit use” of other government accounts like @POTUS and @WhiteHouse that President Trump might consider using.
Taibbi reported that most of the internal debate surrounding the decision to ban President Trump’s account took place in the three days following the January 6th incident. However, Taibbi reports, “the intellectual framework was laid in the months preceding the Capitol riots,”
In his further reporting, Taibbi showed that senior Twitter employees held frequent meetings with federal agencies. Following January 6, internal messages within Slack showed Twitter executives “getting a kick out of intensified relationships with federal agencies,”
In conversations between Yoel Roth and another person with a redacted name, Roth suggested, “Ehh, it happens. I’m a big believer in calendar transparency. But I reached a certain point where my meeting have become… very interesting… to people and there weren’t meeting names generic enough to cover.” And further he went on to sarcastically brag that he was meeting with the FBI to discuss President Trump.
Taibbi then shared internal discussions from a slack channel that “offers an unique window into the evolving thinking of top officials in late 2020 and early 2021.”
The company operated a slack channel named “us2020_xfn_enforcement,” from October 8, 2020, to January 6, 2021. The channel according to Taibbi “would be home for discussions about election-related removals, especially ones that involved ‘high-profile’ accounts (often called ‘VITs’ or ‘Very Important Tweeters’),”
An introductory message to this channel read: “Hey Everyone… starting tomorrow (October 9th) until November 15th this channel will be used for the following reasons related to the US 2020 Elections.” And some prominent reasons listed there include “Trends Identified that require scaled investigations” and “High Profile Account Escalation that potentially require PII/Soft Intervention.”
Taibbi reported internal tensions between high-level Twitter teams where a group that included executives like Roth and Vijaya Gadde were involved in what Taibbi describes as a “high-speed Supreme Court of moderation, issuing content rulings on the fly, often in minutes and based on guesses, gut calls, even Google searches, even in cases involving the President.”
A specific discussion in this group occurred with Roth and another executive whose name was redacted from the screenshot where they spoke about President Trump’s tweet on October 9, 2020, that stated, “Breaking News: 50,000 OHIO VOTERS getting WRONG ABSENTEE BALLOTS. Out of control. A Rigged Election!!!”
“‘A rigged election would be enough to be run violation right?” The unidentified person asked.
“If the claim of fact were inaccurate, yes,” responded Roth, and later added, “But it looks like that’s true,” and linked to an NPR article that proved President Trump’s claims. Taibbi reported that during this time, top executives in the company were “clearly liaising with federal enforcement and intelligence agencies about moderation of election-related content.”
One unidentified person asked the company’s Policy Director Nick Pickles in an internal message if he was “comfortable with Marketing talking about misinformation by saying that we detect it through ML, human review and **partnerships with outside experts?*”
“I know that’s been a slippery process, so not sure if you want our public explanation to hang our hat on that,” they added.
In response, Pickles said, “can we just say ‘partnerships'” and “eg not sure we’d describe the FBI/DHS as experts, or some NGOs that aren’t academic.”
A separate post shows that Roth met regularly with the FBI and DHS as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) regarding the Hunter Biden laptop bombshell revealed by The New York Post in the weeks leading to the 2020 elections.
“Hacked Materials exploded. We blocked the NYP story, then we unblocked it (but said the opposite), then said we unblocked it… and now we’re in a messy situation where our policy is in shambles, comms is angry, reporters think we’re idiots, and we’re refactoring an exceedingly complex policy 18 days out from the election.” The conversation read and later revealed that there was a “weekly sync with FBI/DHS/DNI” regarding election security.
“Some of Roth’s later Slacks indicate his weekly confabs with federal law enforcement involved separate meetings. Here, he ghosts the FBI and DHS, respectively, to go first to an ‘Aspen Institute thing,’ then take a call with Apple,” Taibbi revealed showing that Roth had frequent meetings with the deep state institutions prior to the election.
Twitter’s relationship with the FBI grew deeper when In one case, the FBI sent a pair of tweets to the company demanding censorship, one of these tweets was regarding a former Tippecanoe County, Indiana Councilor and a Republican, John Basham who claimed: “Between 2% and 25% of Ballots by Mail are Being Rejected for Errors.” The FBI cited a Politifact fact-check, saying that the claim had been “proven false.” And demanded it be taken down. Twitter decided to not remove the tweet, but added the bogus Politifact fact check that read “Learn how voting is safe and secure”
Taibbi also revealed that in the enforcement slack channel, there was NO reference or any formal request from the Trump campaign, The Trump White House, or any Republican in general.
Another internal conversation that Taibbi exposed today revealed that employees had discussions about a tweet from former Arkansas Republican governor, Mike Huckabee where he joked about mailing in ballots for his “deceased parents and grandparents” referring to the tweet, Roth stated, “I agree it’s a joke, but he’s also literally admitting in a tweet a crime.” To which one employee noted, “we don’t make exceptions for jokes or satire,” they left Huckabee alone because “we’ve poked enough bears.” Realizing that their politically motivated censorship of conservatives was getting controversial.
Another person argued that the Huckabee post could “still mislead people” to which Roth responded that regulation could depend on whether the joke would result in “confusion.”
Another example came from a tweet of President Trump where employees were similarly concerned about the POTUS’ concerns with mail-in voting where President Trump had shared a story about a mail issue in Ohio and the employees realized that “events took place,” which meant that the post was “factually accurate.”
Taibbi further revealed that President Trump’s personal account was “visibly filtered” one week prior to the election. Many of his tweets had restrictions where they couldn’t be replied to, shared, or liked by other users.
Roth celebrated and bragged about this censorship on the account of the sitting president.
Taibbi further noted that many tweets with similar content, from the Biden team, questioning the legitimacy of the election were presented to the Twitter team but the company refused to take action on them.
The censorship of election integrity-related content was specifically targeted toward Republican users and almost all Democrat supporting arguments and allegations were allowed on the platform.
Taibbi further showed that the company was deploying a “vast range of visible and invisible tools to rein in Trump’s engagement, long before J6” in the weeks leading to the 2020 elections.
The team with virtually unlimited power over public discourse also went on to censor a video posted by Breitbart news and after President Trump shared the video, both Breitbart and Trump accounts were assigned an invisible censorship bot.
The team also used codewords like “to bounce” an account which meant putting it on temporary timeout, usually 12 hours long.
“Interstitial” means “placing a physical label atop a tweet, so it can’t be seen,” wrote Taibbi.
PII could mean “Public Interest Interstitial,” meaning a covering label applied for “public interest reasons.”
“The firm’s executives on day 1 of the January 6th crisis at least tried to pay lip service to its dizzying array of rules. By day 2, they began wavering. By day 3, a million rules were reduced to one: what we say, goes,” Taibbi reported. And after the January 6th incident, there were multiple “frantic calls” inside Twitter to start deploying its “full arsenal of moderation tools”
On January 6th, Vijaya Gadde sent out a company-wide email announcing that three tweets from Trump were “bounced” and signaled that they were determined to find reasons to permanently suspend the sitting President’s account.
On January 6th, following the Capitol protests, President Trump tweeted at 3:01 pm EST, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
This caused outrage among senior executives who were visibly upset and unapologetic about their political bias. Executive Patrick Condon wrote referring to the tweet, “what the actual f*ck,” later adding, “sorry, I actually got emotionally angry seeing that. Turns out I’m not a full robot. Who know?”
Another employee responded, “it’s gut-wrenching; he’s a horrible human being.”
“By the end of the first day, the top execs are still trying to apply rules. By the next day, they will contemplate a major change in approach,” wrote Taibbi and teased the next edition of Twitter files that are scheduled to be released over the weekend by reporters Michael Shellenberger and Bari Weiss
What do you make of the third edition of Twitter Files? Share your thoughts in our Facebook comments!