Billionaire Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, sparked a new controversy this Friday by revealing the role played by this social network to “suppress” a note about Hunter Biden, son of current US President Joe Biden, weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
What is the controversy all about?
In October of that year, The New York Post published a story based on emails allegedly obtained from a laptop that Hunter Biden, the son of a then-Democratic presidential candidate, had allegedly left for repair at a Delaware shop in April 2019.
According to the journalistic investigation, Hunter Biden introduced his father to a senior executive of a Ukrainian energy company in 2015, less than a year before Joe Biden himself – then Vice President of the United States – lobbied government officials in Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating just that company, which would imply a conflict of interest.
According to the revelation this Friday, former Twitter executives helped reduce the impact of that story on that social network, even without informing its then director, Jack Dorsey, in order not to harm the chances of Democrats in the 2020 election, in which Biden ran against President Donald Trump.
Although Elon Musk had anticipated that he would publicize the revelations of why the social network censored the story, Elon Musk did was retweeted the revelations of journalist Matthew Matt Taibbi, entitled “Twitter Files”, which he accompanied with icons of popcorn bags.
How the two Indian-Americans are associated with it?
Two Indian Americans, Congressman Ro Khanna and Vijaya Gadde, figure prominently in the story of US President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden’s laptop, a full disclosure of which Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced would be published.
Khanna is the Democratic congressman representing Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives, while Gadde, an attorney, served as general counsel and head of legal, policy and trust affairs at Twitter before being fired by the new boss and CEO Musk.
Taibbi reports that some technological tools originally designed to moderate the conversation on Twitter in order to combat spam and electronic scams began to be used for political purposes, “first a little, then more often, then constantly.”
Taibbi noted that a fundamental problem with tech companies and content moderation is that there are a lot of people doing the talking, but little know or care. He then shared an exchange between Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna and Gadde.
Taibbi shared a screenshot of links to tweets that Biden’s team allegedly wanted to be removed.
“Both parties had access to these tools. For example, in 2020, requests were received and fulfilled from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign. However, this system was not balanced,” Taibbi wrote. “It was based on contacts. Because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly made up of people of political orientation, there were more channels, more ways to complain open to the left (well, Democrats) than to the right.”
Why Twitter Blocked Hunter Biden Laptop Story
Part of the Twitter archives, Taibbi began with October 14, 2020, New York Post article titled BIDEN’S SECRET EMAILS. “Twitter went to extraordinary lengths to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it might be ‘unsafe.’ They even blocked their direct message transmission, a tool until now reserved for extreme cases, for example, child pgraphy,” Taibbi wrote.
Taibbi shared that Twitter blocked White House spokeswoman Kaleigh McEnany from her account for tweeting about the story. prompting a letter from Trump campaign staffer Mike Hahn, who said: “At least pretend to care about the next 20 days.”
In response to that, Caroline Strom, Twitter’s public policy executive, sent out an “educated WTF inquiry.” Taibbi noted that several employees became aware of the tension between the communications and policy teams and the security and trust teams. The former had little or less control over moderation.
“Strom’s note returned the response that the laptop story had been removed for violating the company’s ‘hacked materials’ policy,” Taibbi wrote, sharing a screenshot of an email from Elaine Ong Sotto, operations analyst, global escalations team. She also shared an archived web page from Twitter Hacked Material Distribution Policy.
Continuing his thread, Taibbi noted that several sources heard about a blanket warning from federal police that summer about potential foreign hacks. He added that he has not seen any evidence of any government being involved in the laptop story. “In fact, that might have been the problem…”
He added that the decision was made at the highest levels of Twitter without the knowledge of Jack Dorsey, the platform’s then-CEO. Vijaya Gadde, former Twitter trust and legal policy director played a key role, Taibi wrote.
Following the above communications, Taibbi noted that the head of public policy, Lauren Culbertson, received an “appalling letter/report from Carl Szabo of research firm NetChoice.” The firm polled twelve members of Congress: 9 Republicans and 3 Democrats from the “House Judiciary Committee to the Office of Rep. Judy Chu.”
Continuing her thread, Taibbi noted that NetChoice informed Twitter that it expected a “bloodbath” in Hill’s upcoming hearings. The screenshot he shared read: “High-level takeaway: All the Republicans said ‘this is a tipping point. It’s too much. And both the Democrats and the Republicans were angry.”
The following screenshot of Szabo that Taibbi shared read: “When asked how serious this situation is, a staff member said, ‘It’s Access Hollywood’s tech moment and you don’t have Hillary to hide behind.’ Others were blunter: ‘technology is screwed and rightly so”.
In the screenshot below, Taibbi described Szabo’s letter as “chilling passages conveying the attitudes of Democratic lawmakers. They want ‘more’ restraint, and as for the Bill of Rights, ‘it’s not absolute.’”
Taibí commented that an incredible subplot of the Twitter/Hunter Biden laptop affair “was how much was done without CEO Jack Dorsey’s knowledge, and how long it took for the situation to ‘decompose’ (as one former employee put it) even after Dorsey intervened. ”
While going through Gadde’s emails, Taibbi noticed a familiar name, her own. Jack Dorsey emailed him a copy of his Substack article criticizing the incident, he said. He added that there were multiple instances on file in which Dorsey intervened to challenge suspensions and other moderation actions for accounts across the political spectrum.
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