Based on internal documents, the American journalist Matt Taibbi relates the debates within the company around the moderation of an article on the son of the American president Biden.
“ Here we are“. Three words and a few popcorn emojis by way of illustration: it was with a concise tweet that Elon Musk relayed, on December 3, the publication of “Twitter Filesby American journalist Matt Taibbi. The “queuesis the name commonly given in the United States to investigations carried out using confidential documents. Here, the files obtained reveal the underside of a controversial moderation decision by Twitter which dates back to the 2020 presidential election. It fuels the resentment of the Republican camp against the social network, accused of being partisan. If we do not know how Matt Taibbi obtained these documents, his investigation received the support of the new boss of Twitter.
- What exactly are we talking about?
The “Twitter filesare excerpts from emails and internal company conversations released by American journalist Matt Taibbi. The latter intends to show how and why the distribution of an investigation published in October 2020 by the New York Post on Hunter Biden, the son of the current president of the United States, was temporarily blocked by Twitter, two weeks before the US presidential election.
Concretely, the social network had removed the possibility of being able to share the press article on Twitter, even by private messages. The New York Post had, at the same time, refused to remove from its account its tweets referring to this article. The latter contravening the rules of the platform, the newspaper’s account had been suspended from October 14 to 30, 2020.
At the time, the New York Post article claimed to reveal how Hunter Biden allegedly introduced his father, then vice president of the United States, to a senior executive at Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, in 2015. To support his remarks, the article disseminated extracts from emails demonstrating the organization of a meeting between the Bidens and this executive. However, a year later, the American administration obtained the departure of the new Ukrainian general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. The latter will argue that Joe Biden wanted to prevent him from investigating the activities of Burisma, where Hunter Biden sat as a director. For the newspaper, the meeting between the executive of the company and Joe Biden tended to prove this accusation.
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However, obtaining these emails seemed a bit incredible in the eyes of several American media: a laptop computer belonging to Hunder Biden, victim of water damage, would have been deposited in April 2019 in a computer repair shop. It would have come into the hands of the Republican politician Rudy Giuliani, who would have sent compromising elements to the New York Post. In an official document released by the Politico media on October 19, 2020, several former senior American intelligence officials indicated that these emails presented “all the classic hallmarks of a Russian disinformation operation“.
Twitter and Facebook then took the decision to limit the sharing of this survey, published a few days before the presidential election which opposed Donald Trump to Joe Biden. What to feed, on the side of the Republican camp, the theories according to which the large social networks wished to stifle embarrassing revelations for the Democratic candidate.
- What are the new elements brought by theTwitter files»?
Matt Taibbi reports on how Twitter decided to limit access to the New York Post article and, above all, how this decision was not unanimous within the social network teams.
The documents it publishes show that the campaign teams of Donald Trump and Joe Biden were in regular contact with Twitter to request the removal of certain content. “Both parties had access to these tools. For example, in 2020 requests from the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored“, details Matt Taibbi.
The journalist considers that the claims of the Democratic camp were favored by Twitter and he takes as an example the case of the article of the New York Post. “Twitter took extraordinary measures to cover up the investigation […]. They even blocked its transmission by direct message, a tool until then reserved for extreme cases, such as child pornography“, he says, while illustrating his point with excerpts from internal conversations between the teams.
But the decision to suspend the New York Post account, citing the presence of elements resulting from a computer hack, would have been perceived as inconsistent by several employees. In his thread of tweets, Matt Taibbi relays the testimony of one of them. “Hacking was an excuse. In a few hours, almost everyone realized that it wouldn’t hold. But no one had the courage to go back“.
Finally, the journalist describes what he considers to be an inconsistency: the decision to limit access to the publication of the New York Post would have been taken at the highest level of management of the company but without including the CEO of the time, Jack Dorsey. He highlights the key role played in this case by Vijaya Gadde, the company’s former head of legal, political and trust affairs, known for having banned Donald Trump’s account. She is among those immediately fired by Elon Musk last October, along with former CEO Parag Agrawal.
- What are the consequences of these “Twitter files» ?
This first series of documents once again highlights the close link that unites the two American political camps to the Twitter platform. However, the dissemination of theseTwitter filesdidn’t get a resounding echo. “ Some conservatives have complained about this failure“wrote the Washington Post on Saturday. “It’s not the bomb we were hoping foradded New York Post columnist Miranda Devine.
Among the few reactions, the former President of the United States Donald Trump did not fail to comment on the publication of “Twitter Fileson Truth Social (his own social network launched in 2021 Editor’s note) and denounces massive fraud around the 2020 presidential elections.
Several Twitter employees were moved by the fact that the names and emails of several of their colleagues were published by Matt Taibbi, thus exposing them to public condemnation. “We are furious. Someone might get killed“said an ex-employee to the American daily. Elon Musk has already announced that a “second partfrom the Twitter Files would be published on Saturday.