First, let me say, I would like a well-written, organized, comprehensive piece of writing explaining this material. Alternatively, show me everything — all the raw material.
Instead, Elon Musk directed us to the Twitter account of Matt Taibbi, and we were expected to receive a long series of tweets and to puzzle through it. Was that to drive massive traffic to Twitter? Was it supposed to be better all fragmented like that?
It certainly wasn't a way to get quick updates to news that was suddenly breaking. It's an old story: Twitter was skewed to favor Democrats. Now, presumably, there's impressive proof. Present the proof in a clear organized fashion!
Musk enlisted Matt Taibbi, so why couldn't Matt Taibbi create a readable document and then just tweet a link to that document?
We were all supposed to cobble the story together on our own. I tried, but I couldn't even figure out how to just get a straight line of Taibbi's tweets. I couldn't move all the responses out of the way. The path was cluttered with other people's tweets — memes about waiting for the next tweet, laughs about how this is just what everybody already knew anyway. What a confusing mess!
After a full night's sleep, I want to do a post, and I can't even figure out where to click to get the Taibbi tweets lined up in order! I do see a lot of blue checks homing in on Tweet #10: "10.Both parties had access to these tools. For instance, in 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored. However:"
"However:" sets up the next tweets, the ones that (supposedly) show the Democrats using the tools and receiving a sympathetic response from Twitter insiders. Most of this seems to be about the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
What I'd like to see this morning is a clear presentation of what was dribbled out last night. I look first to my favorite source for half a century: The New York Times.
There's nothing at the top of the home page, so I search the page for Twitter.
I get one article: "Twitter Keeps Missing Its Advertising Targets as Woes Mount." That's been a theme at the NYT: Twitter is doing badly under Musk. Woes Mount! But it doesn't say advertising is crashing or even down at all, just that there were "targets" and then those targets were missed. These were internal targets, so maybe they were very aggressive. I can't easily tell how woeful it is that these targets were missed.
I search the whole site for "taibbi" and "twitter" and easily see that the story I'm looking for is, at least at the moment, nonexistent.
I relocate to The Washington Post. Its home page is loaded with Twitter stories: "Gio Reyna has played seven minutes. This World Cup, he's the talk of Soccer Twitter," "TikTok, not Twitter, is the real menace," "From quitting to blocking: How to protect yourself on Musk’s Twitter," "Elon Musk says Kanye West suspended from Twitter after swastika tweet," "Twitter needs Apple more than Apple needs Twitter."
Five stories, but not the one I'm looking for. I do the site search for "taibbi" and "twitter." Nothing!
I try NPR, BBC, CNN. Nothing. Nothing. Aha!
CNN comes through for me: "Released Twitter emails show how employees debated how to handle 2020 New York Post Hunter Biden story" by Brian Fung:
For days, Twitter owner Elon Musk had teased a massive bombshell disclosure based on internal company documents that he claimed would reveal “what really happened” inside Twitter when it decided to temporarily suppress a 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden and his laptop.
But on Friday, instead of releasing a trove of documents to the public, Musk’s big reveal pointed to a series of tweets by the journalist Matt Taibbi, who had been provided with emails that largely corroborated what was already known about the incident.
That closely tracks my perception of what happened.
Attracting thousands of retweets, Taibbi’s winding tweet thread reaffirmed how, in the initial hours after the Post story went live, Twitter employees grappled with fears that it could have been the result of a Russian hacking operation.
Grappled with fears? Or did they desperately search for a justification to suppress the story and trump up the "Russian hacking" ground?
It showed employees on Twitter’s legal, policy and communications teams debating – and at times disagreeing – over whether to restrict the article under the company’s hacked materials policy, weeks before the 2020 election.... While some questioned the basis for the decision and warned that Twitter would be inviting allegations of anti-conservative bias, others within the company, including senior officials, said the circumstances surrounding the Post story were unclear and recommended caution, according to screenshots of internal communications shared by Taibbi.
(Then-CEO Jack Dorsey – whom Taibbi said was not involved in the decision – has told US lawmakers that in hindsight, suppressing the story was a mistake.)....
The Taibbi posts undercut a top claim by Musk and Republicans, who have accused the FBI of leaning on social media companies to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop stories.
Musk tweeted Friday night, amid the Taibbi posts, that Twitter had acted “under orders from the government.”
Taibbi said in his series of tweets that “there is no evidence - that I’ve seen - of any government involvement in the laptop story.”
That's big! Does Musk not have legal advisers? He was trying to make a giant splash. Why didn't he do it right?
Hypothesis: He didn't really have the story he wanted, so he went all out to churn traffic on Twitter.
Maybe he intentionally gets things wrong so his antagonists will tweet to correct him. And then everyone can fight about that. What a happening place Twitter is! Let's all go tweet little bits and pieces and see who wins or who's funnier or meaner. And that's how Musk wins. It's not about getting to the truth, but getting everyone on Twitter, tweeting one thing after another.
How wearisome! I'm just hoping this CNN piece — a normal article — will be reasonably organized and professional:
Lawyers for Facebook parent company Meta have made similar comments in recent weeks, disputing claims from Republicans that the FBI coerced Facebook to suppress the laptop stories.
Taibbi said the material he reviewed referenced general FBI warnings about potential attempted Russian interference in the elections, which also dovetails with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s public account of Facebook’s handling of the New York Post story and affirms how Twitter was on high alert for possible foreign meddling.
In the wake of the article’s suppression, Taibbi said one Democratic congressman, California Rep. Ro Khanna, wrote to Twitter’s chief legal officer suggesting it was a bad look and a departure from First Amendment ideals to suppress a news report containing details that affect a presidential candidate....
Twitter is a private company, but you can still argue that it ought to behave consistently with free speech ideals. This is a difficult concept for many people to understand, and I appreciate the precision of the language CNN is using here.
The tweet thread also highlighted how officials from both political parties routinely wrote to Twitter asking for specific tweets to be removed....
Taibbi said the contact from political parties happened more frequently from Democrats, but provided no internal documents to back up his assertion. He also did not say that Democrats requested that Twitter suppress the Post story, and his account did not suggest that the US government had ever pressured Twitter to suppress the story.
Thanks, CNN! That strikes me as a clear and balanced summary. If it's wrong, tell me exactly why. It's my touchstone at this point.
And, yes, I've known all along that I could find coverage in The New York Post.
The New York Post is all over it:
I had little hope this is going to be the kind of story I want. But the story in writing is not as sensationalistic as the front page graphics, and it helpfully brings out aspects that are missing from the CNN presentation. Highlights:
The chaos and confusion behind closed doors at Twitter in the immediate aftermath of the October 2020 Hunter Biden expose show that a small group of top-level execs decided to label the Post’s story as “hacked material” without any evidence — behind the back of then-CEO and founder Jack Dorsey. ...
According to Taibbi, Twitter’s former head of legal, policy, and trust Vijaya Gadde played a “key role” in the censorship decision.
Damning emails and comments from former Twitter employees showed that “everyone knew” the social media giant’s suppression of The Post’s scoops about Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop. “was f—ed.”...
“Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it,” the ex-employee added.
“They just freelanced it,” a former employee told Taibbi about how the decision came about.
The decision left high-level executives puzzled.
“I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe,” Trenton Kennedy, a communications official wrote in an apparent internal email to colleagues.
To which former Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker responded that it is “reasonable” to assume materials were hacked and that “caution is warranted.”
“Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” former Twitter Vice President of Global Communications Brandon Borrman asks in another missive.
“Everyone knew this was f–ked,” a former worker told Taibbi about Twitter’s official stance of on the Hunter story.
According to Taibbi, the social media company “took extraordinary steps to suppress”...
Twitter’s censorship of the story led to then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany getting locked out of her account with just weeks to go before the 2020 election....
Taibbi also tweeted: “Both parties had access to these tools. For instance, in 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored.”
But the former Rolling Stone writer said the “system wasn’t balanced” and “was based on contacts.”