February 3, 2023
This story will be updated as "The Twitter Files" continue to release.  Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that he would soon be publishing "The Twitter Files." These files would be related to the suppression of free speech on the platform. Musk's initial teaser tweet read, "The Twitter Files on free...

This story will be updated as “The Twitter Files” continue to release. 

Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that he would soon be publishing “The Twitter Files.” These files would be related to the suppression of free speech on the platform.

Musk’s initial teaser tweet read, “The Twitter Files on free speech suppression soon to be published on Twitter itself. The public deserves to know what really happened …”

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Musk later clarified that the files would reveal “what really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter.”

As promised, he released the files on Friday via a tweet thread by American journalist Matt Taibbi.

The Twitter Files

According to Taibbi, early on at Twitter, the tech giant slowly added tools designed to combat spam and “financial fraudsters.”

Before too long, these tools were weaponized to manipulate speech that Twitter staff and executives subjectively viewed as harmful and/or misinformation.

Eventually, this censorship grew to the point where Twitter was getting “requests from connected actors” to censor certain speech. One of those actors, according to an internal email shared by Taibbi, was “the Biden team.”

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“Celebrities and unknowns alike could be removed or reviewed at the behest of a political party,” Taibbi tweeted, along with a screenshot from an internal email. The email appears to show Twitter employees responding to a Democratic National Committee request to censor actor James Woods.

Although both Republicans and Democrats (including the Trump administration and Biden campaign) used this system of requests, the censorship was used disproportionately against conservatives.

Taibbi attributes this to the fact that the Twitter staff was overwhelmingly liberal. Because of this, there were additional channels for liberal actors to make requests than were available to those on the right.

This disproportionate censorship was confirmed by “the Twitter files” and “multiple current and former high-level executives,” Taibbi wrote.

The Twitter Files: Censoring the Hunter Biden Story

Twitter employees went above and beyond normal procedure when it came to the censorship of the controversial Hunter Biden laptop scandal.

Links were removed and warnings were posted that the story was “unsafe.” Kaleigh McEnany, then the White House press secretary, was locked out of her account for sharing the story.

Twitter censors even went as far as to block the story from being sent via direct message, a tool reserved for extreme cases such as blocking the spread of child pornography, according to Taibbi.

What followed was some internal confusion at Twitter: internal communications shared by Taibbi revealed that there was “tension” between the public policy and communications teams.

Twitter employees were previously given a “general” warning about hacks by foreign actors, Taibbi, in sifting through the Twitter files, has not seen evidence “of any government involvement in the laptop story.”

Instead, the decision was made off the cuff by then-CEO Jack Dorsey and former head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde.

Background

Over the last several years, a number of prominent conservative voices were silenced on Twitter, most notably former President Donald Trump.

But ever since Musk purchased the social media giant, conservative personalities and media outlets have been allowed to return in droves. These include Jordan Peterson, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s personal account, Kanye West, The Babylon Bee, Project Veritas and many others.

While conservatives are returning in large numbers, many liberals are leaving.

“The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg announced her departure shortly after Musk took over Twitter.

Singer Toni Braxton also announced that she would be leaving.

Many other celebrities have left as well, including Shonda Rhimes, Sara Bareilles and Gigi Hadid.

But this has not seemed to bother the Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter CEO very much.

Musk has been full of surprises this year, and “The Twitter Files” is likely just the latest in a list of many more to come.