Twitter Files Part III: Twitter Worked In Coordination With U.S. Government To Censor Content During 2020 Election

The third installment of the so-called “Twitter Files” released Friday night showed that federal agencies were in contact with Twitter during the 2020 presidential election and were involved in censoring content on the platform.

The thread, which journalist Matt Taibbi took nearly three hours to post in full, contained a great deal of valuable information, but also some significant errors — ranging from appearing to not accurately describe some of the content to calling Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) a “congresswoman” to calling Mike Huckabee the former governor of Arizona.

Despite these errors and others, much of the information that was released was stunning as it confirmed long held suspicions about things that were going on at the company, including the revelation that executives sometimes went against their own policies when determining to censor former President Donald Trump, as well as the fact that all the censorship appeared to come solely from the political Left and government entities and was aimed at the political Right.

The third installment of the Twitter Files centered around the lead-up to Twitter’s decision to permanently ban the former president on January 8, 2021, following the riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.

The information released showed that Twitter had special Slack channels set up where they monitored Trump’s tweets and made rapid decisions about whether to censor the president or add warning labels to his tweets.

Then-Twitter Policy Director Nick Pickles appeared to admit that the platform was meeting officials from the FBI and DHS regarding some of the actions that it was taking.

Yoel Roth, then-Twitter Global Head for Trust & Safety, confirmed in an internal message that he was meeting with the FBI, DHS, and Director of National Intelligence about election security and about the Hunter Biden laptop story. The DHS, FBI, and DOJ said during the election that the laptop story was not disinformation, which the former Director of National Intelligence confirmed to The Daily Wire on Friday night.

20. This post about the Hunter Biden laptop situation shows that Roth not only met weekly with the FBI and DHS, but with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI):

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 9, 2022

Roth appeared to admit that he had “weekly confabs with federal law enforcement,” Taibbi wrote.

23. 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.

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 9, 2022

Taibbi went on to show tweets that the FBI flagged for Twitter around election security:

The FBI’s second report concerned this tweet by @JohnBasham:

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

26. The group then decides to apply a “Learn how voting is safe and secure” label because one commenter says, “it’s totally normal to have a 2% error rate.” Roth then gives the final go-ahead to the process initiated by the FBI:

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

Released screenshots showed that on multiple occasions, employees looked to take action against Trump’s account, but were rebuffed because information in some of the tweets was accurate even though Trump spread false information in other tweets concerning the election.

The screenshots showed that Roth appeared to be pleased with the actions that the platform was taking against Trump.

35. In another example, Twitter employees prepare to slap a “mail-in voting is safe” warning label on a Trump tweet about a postal screwup in Ohio, before realizing “the events took place,” which meant the tweet was “factually accurate”:

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

“VERY WELL DONE ON SPEED”: the group is pleased the Trump tweet is dealt with quickly

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

Other internal documents showed that Twitter once again targeted conservative actor James Woods for posting a screenshot of a Trump tweet. The team decided to not hit Woods for that tweet, but they said they would hit hard in the future for a different violation if Woods broke a rule.

38. After Woods angrily quote-tweeted about Trump’s warning label, Twitter staff – in a preview of what ended up happening after J6 – despaired of a reason for action, but resolved to “hit him hard on future vio.”

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

Taibbi then posted about how tweets from the political Left, which would have had action taken against them if they were from the political Right, were largely left alone as top Twitter officials rationalized why they would not take action against pro-Biden tweets.

42. “THAT’S UNDERSTANDABLE”: Even the hashtag #StealOurVotes – referencing a theory that a combo of Amy Coney Barrett and Trump will steal the election – is approved by Twitter brass, because it’s “understandable” and a “reference to… a US Supreme Court decision.”

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

44. Later in November 2020, Roth asked if staff had a “debunk moment” on the “SCYTL/Smartmantic vote-counting” stories, which his DHS contacts told him were a combination of “about 47” conspiracy theories:

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

Taibbi reported that the team took additional measures to reduce how much visibility many of Trump’s tweets were getting starting in early December 2020.

48. The significance is that it shows that Twitter, in 2020 at least, was deploying a vast range of visible and invisible tools to rein in Trump’s engagement, long before J6. The ban will come after other avenues are exhausted

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

“There is no way to follow the frenzied exchanges among Twitter personnel from between January 6th and 8th without knowing the basics of the company’s vast lexicon of acronyms and Orwellian unwords,” Taibbi wrote. “This is all necessary background to J6. Before the riots, the company was engaged in an inherently insane/impossible project, trying to create an ever-expanding, ostensibly rational set of rules to regulate every conceivable speech situation that might arise between humans.”

“This project was preposterous yet its leaders were unable to see this, having become infected with groupthink, coming to believe – sincerely – that it was Twitter’s responsibility to control, as much as possible, what people could talk about, how often, and with whom,” he continued. “When panic first breaks out on J6 there’s a fair share of WTF-type posts, mixed in with frantic calls for Twitter to start deploying its full arsenal of moderation tools.”

This project was preposterous yet its leaders were unable to see this, having become infected with groupthing, coming to believe – sincerely – that it was Twitter’s responsibility to control, as much as possible, what people could talk about, how often, and with whom.

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

60. Minutes later, Roth executed the historic act of “bouncing” Trump, i.e. putting him in timeout. “I hope you… are appropriately CorpSec’d,” says a colleague.

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

61. The first company-wide email from Gadde on January 6th announced that 3 Trump tweets had been bounced, but more importantly signaled a determination to use legit “violations” as a guide for any possible permanent suspension:

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

63. A few last notes about January 6th. Roth at one point looked and found Trump had a slew of duplicate bot applications:

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 10, 2022

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