For those who haven’t been following, a compilation of one-paragraph summaries of all the Twitter Files threads by every reporter. With links and notes on key revelations
It’s January 4th, 2023, which means Twitter Files stories have been coming out for over a month. Because these are weedsy tales, and may be hard to follow if you haven’t from the beginning, I’ve written up capsule summaries of each of the threads by all of the Twitter Files reporters, and added links to the threads and accounts of each. At the end, in response to some readers (especially foreign ones) who’ve found some of the alphabet-soup government agency names confusing, I’ve included a brief glossary of terms to help as well.
In order, the Twitter Files threads:
- Twitter Files Part 1: December 2, 2022, by @mtaibbi
TWITTER AND THE HUNTER BIDEN LAPTOP STORY
Recounting the internal drama at Twitter surrounding the decision to block access to a New York Post exposé on Hunter Biden in October, 2020.
Key revelations: Twitter blocked the story on the basis of its “hacked materials” policy, but executives internally knew the decision was problematic. “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” is how comms official Brandon Borrman put it. Also: when a Twitter contractor polls members of Congress about the decision, they hear Democratic members want more moderation, not less, and “the First Amendment isn’t absolute.”
THE “EXITING” OF TWITTER DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL JIM BAKER
A second round of Twitter Files releases was delayed, as new addition Bari Weiss discovers former FBI General Counsel and Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker was reviewing the first batches of Twitter Files documents, whose delivery to reporters had slowed.
- Twitter Files Part 2, by @BariWeiss, December 8, 2022
TWITTER’S SECRET BLACKLISTS
Bari Weiss gives a long-awaited answer to the question, “Was Twitter shadow-banning people?” It did, only the company calls it “visibility filtering.” Twitter also had a separate, higher council called SIP-PES that decided cases for high-visibility, controversial accounts.
Key revelations: Twitter had a huge toolbox for controlling the visibility of any user, including a “Search Blacklist” (for Dan Bongino), a “Trends Blacklist” for Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, and a “Do Not Amplify” setting for conservative activist Charlie Kirk. Weiss quotes a Twitter employee: “Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool.” With help from @abigailshrier, @shellenbergermd, @nelliebowles, and @isaacgrafstein.
- Twitter Files, Part 3, by @mtaibbi, December 9, 2022
THE REMOVAL OF DONALD TRUMP, October 2020 – January 6th, 2021
First in a three-part series looking at how Twitter came to the decision to suspend Donald Trump. The idea behind the series is to show how all of Twitter’s “visibility filtering” tools were on display and deployed after January 6th, 2021. Key Revelations: Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth not only met regularly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, but with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Also, Twitter was aggressively applying “visibility filtering” tools to Trump well before the election.
- Twitter Files Part 4, by @ShellenbergerMD, December 10, 2022
THE REMOVAL OF DONALD TRUMP, January 7th, 2021
This thread by Michael Shellenberger looks at the key day after the J6 riots and before Trump would ultimately be banned from Twitter on January 8th, showing how Twitter internally reconfigured its rules to make a Trump ban fit their policies.
Key revelations: at least one Twitter employee worried about a “slippery slope” in which “an online platform CEO with a global presence… can gatekeep speech for the entire world,” only to be shot down. Also, chief censor Roth argues for a ban on congressman Matt Gaetz even though it “doesn’t quite fit anywhere (duh),” and Twitter changed its “public interest policy” to clear a path for Trump’s removal.
- Twitter Files Part 5, by @BariWeiss, December 11, 2022
THE REMOVAL OF DONALD TRUMP, January 8th, 2021
As angry as many inside Twitter were with Donald Trump after the January 6th Capitol riots, staffers struggled to suspend his account, saying things like, “I think we’d have a hard time saying this is incitement.” As documented by Weiss, they found a way to pull the trigger anyway.
Key revelations: there were dissenters in the company (“Maybe because I am from China,” said one employee, “I deeply understand how censorship can destroy the public conversation”), but are overruled by senior executives like Vijaya Gadde and Roth, who noted many on Twitter’s staff were citing the “Banality of Evil,” and comparing those who favored sticking to a strict legalistic interpretation of Twitter’s rules — i.e. keep Trump, who had “no violation” — to “Nazis following orders.”
- Twitter Files Part 6, by @mtaibbi, December 16, 2022
TWITTER, THE FBI SUBSIDIARY
Twitter’s contact with the FBI was “constant and pervasive,” as FBI personnel, mainly in the San Francisco field office, regularly sent lists of “reports” to Twitter, often about Americans with low follower counts making joke tweets. Tweeters on both the left and the right were affected.
Key revelations: A senior Twitter executive reports, “FBI was adamant no impediments to sharing” classified information exist. Twitter also agreed to “bounce” content on the recommendations of a wide array of governmental and quasi-governmental actors, from the FBI to the Homeland Security agency CISA to Stanford’s Election Integrity Project to state governments. The company one day received so many moderation requests from the FBI, an executive congratulated staffers at the end for completing the “monumental undertaking.”
- Twitter Files Part 7, by @ShellenbergerMD, December 19, 2022
THE FBI AND HUNTER BIDEN’S LAPTOP
The Twitter Files story increases its focus on the company’s relationship to federal law enforcement and intelligence, and shows intense communication between the FBI and Twitter just before the release of the Post’s Hunter Biden story.
Key Revelations: San Francisco agent Elvis Chan “sends 10 documents to Twitter’s then-Head of Site Integrity, Yoel Roth, through Teleporter, a one-way communications channel from the FBI to Twitter,” the evening before the release of the Post story. Also, Baker in an email explains Twitter was compensated for “processing requests” by the FBI, saying “I am happy to report we have collected $3,415,323 since October 2019!”
The ten teleporter documents referred to in Mike Shellenberger’s FBI thread.
Categories: Tech Censorship