The internal Twitter communications released by new owner Elon Musk provide color to what appeared to have happened in the unprecedented censorship campaign against the New York Post‘s “laptop from hell” series — but still leaves elements of the story unanswered.
Here are some questions that still need more information:
What was the reason the New York Post official Twitter account remained locked for 16 days?
Twitter locked the New York Post out of its official Twitter account for 16 days following the first post linking to the first story in the “laptop from hell” series. After establishing that the tweet was not in violation of Twitter terms of service, the platform insisted the Post still needed to delete the tweet in order to regain access to its account. When the Post refused to on a matter of principle, Twitter did not reinstate the account for 16 days. What was the deliberation surrounding Twitter’s refusal to reinstate the Post’s account access?
Did intelligence agencies approach Twitter regarding censorship of “misinformation” regarding Hunter Biden ahead of the 2020 election?
According to a Fox News report published Saturday, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Elvis Chan testified to state attorneys general from Missouri and Louisiana this week that the agency “held weekly meetings with Big Tech companies in Silicon Valley ahead of the 2020 presidential election to discuss ‘disinformation’ on social media and ask about efforts to censor that information.”
Fox News reported:
Chan, who serves in the FBI’s San Francisco bureau, was questioned under oath by court order about his alleged “critical role” in “coordinating with social-media platforms relating to censorship and suppression of speech on their platforms.”
During the deposition, Chan said that he, along with the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force and senior Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency officials, had weekly meetings with major social media companies to warn against Russian disinformation attempts ahead of the 2020 election, according to a source in the Missouri attorney general’s office.
Those meetings were initially quarterly, then monthly, then weekly heading into the presidential election between former President Donald Trump and now President Biden. According to a source, Chan testified that in those multiple, separate meetings, the FBI warned the social media companies that there could be potentially Russian “hack and dump” or “hack and leak” operations.
In an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience in August, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the FBI approached him to warn Facebook of an imminent “dump” of “Russian propaganda” shortly before the Hunter Biden “laptop from hell” story broke — which set up the predicate to curb the story’s distribution on the platform when it was published.
Taibbi’s reporting did not directly address whether intelligence agencies approached Twitter about censorship — did the FBI’s meetings with “Big Tech companies” include Twitter? If not, why did the FBI approach Facebook, according to Zuckerberg’s account, but not Twitter? Did Twitter contact the FBI when the story was published to inquire about any potential problems with it, or investigations into it, or for an opinion on its legitimacy?
Taibbi notes in his reporting on the Twitter files, “The problem with the ‘hacked materials’ ruling, several sources said, was that this normally required an official/law enforcement finding of a hack. But such a finding never appears throughout what one executive describes as a ‘whirlwind’ 24-hour, company-wide mess.”
Did former Twitter Deputy Counsel (and former senior member of the FBI) James Baker contact the FBI to verify the federal subpoena published by the New York Post?
In the first story of the “laptop from hell” series, the New York Post published a federal subpoena showing the laptop it was reporting from, Hunter Biden’s, was in federal law enforcement’s possession.
Then-Twitter Deputy Counsel Jim Baker wrote to his colleagues at the company regarding censoring the Post‘s reporting according to the platform’s hacked materials policy, “[We] need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked. At this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that conclusion is warranted.”
Baker then admits, per the Post‘s reporting in the story in question, that there is evidence “indicating that the computer was either abandoned and/or the owner consented to allow the repair shop to access it for at least some purposes.”
As a former member of the FBI, was Baker not equipped to verify the subpoena published by the Post, which would negate the theory that the reporting was based on hacked material?
What effort did then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey make to intervene during the time Twitter was censoring the “laptop from hell” series, and in the 16 days following when the New York Post was locked out of its Twitter account?
The Taibbi thread says censorship decisions about the “laptop from hell series” were made with “little knowledge” of then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. But is there any information about what efforts Dorsey made to rectify the situation, even weeks later as it was still unfolding, before calling it a “total mistake” in a Congressional hearing months later?
How many other times in 2020 did Twitter use its mechanism to disable links sent in direct messages, as it did with the “laptop from hell” reporting?
According to a tweet in Taibbi’s thread, Twitter used every method it had available to censor the New York Post‘s stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop, including measures allegedly only used on the most serious problems like child porn.
Taibbi reported, “Twitter took extraordinary steps to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it may be ‘unsafe.’ They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool hitherto reserved for extreme cases, e.g. child pornography.”
(Especially given that Twitter has a dismal record of abating the proliferation of child porn on its platform) How many times was this extreme suppression method used by Twitter in the full year of 2020?