Matt Taibbi Profile picture
Dec 24, 2022 19 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Note on Left and Right in the Twitter Files…
Mainstream outlets try to grind every news story into grade D partisan hamburger and Twitter Files coverage is no exception. The Washington Post even called me a “conservative journalist” for a few minutes. Image
This isn’t a left or right project. The question that interests me, how these companies have been absorbed as intelligence arms, is more future/dystopia than blue/red. But that story is hard to sell, se we’re getting the usual stupidity.
Still, well-meaning people have questions:
Obviously, I know voices on the left have been “moderated” a lot, because I’ve been interviewing them for years:……
But we’re all trying to triage time and instead of looking up individual accounts, most of us have been looking at broader search terms to start, like “FBI,” “Covid,” “DHS,” etc.
I did look up account(s) connected to Julian Assange. His “PV2” page doesn’t show anything unusual, just automated suspensions of an abandoned account, and I found no record of, say, a government-initiated action. Image
That doesn’t mean such intervention doesn’t exist. It may be in a Slack or an email somewhere. It’s a big haystack. We’ll keep looking.
A few actions hit both Republicans and Democrats. Some FBI offices were clearly running searches of “November 4” to catch people trying to trick others into not voting, and this snared both Biden and Trump voters in silly numbers. Image
There are interesting/ambiguous details, like a decision we found in which the company considered restricting all moderation decisions involving Biden or Trump to four senior executives: Image
But Twitter did have a clear political monoculture. I ran searches for both “RNC” and “DNC,” cross-referenced against senior executives. “RNC” turned up pages about Republicans suing the company. “DNC” returned mountains of insistent moderation demands.
Some of the latter were quite funny and revealing.
In multiple instances Twitter initially decided not to remove videos lampooning Joe Biden because they were obvious parodies “unlikely to cause offline harm or generate confusion.”
These included a "deceptively edited" video of Biden coughing:…
And a "Todos Con Biden" Trumo spoof:
Usually Twitter was responding to complaints from one very voluble DNC staffer and still applied warning labels to such content. In one case, they refused to do either.
“Because the video is an unaltered excerpt of the Vice President's speech, our teams consider it to be out of context, but not deceptive,” Twitter told the staffer, who fumed, "These rules need revision."
In the process, they sent a graph of their bizarre moderation flow chart, which among other things showed they can still apply labels to non-deceptive material. This seemed more interesting than the fate of a Biden coughing mashup. Image
If this kind of mechanized speech control can be used one way today, it can be used in another tomorrow, especially if unseen enforcment officials are pushing on the levers.
People will try to make this story about who did and did not benefit and argue this endlessly. But the utility of the project is showing everyone how the machine worked - which we're trying to do.

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More from @mtaibbi

May 19
I really want to be gracious and thank whoever at the ⁦@washingtonpost⁩ insisted on a review of their Hamilton 68 reports, but they needed to make more than “minor” changes and seem to have compounded the problem (1/2):…
The “fixes” somehow preserve language like, “Any According to the website Hamilton 68, which tracks Russian-linked Twitter accounts…” At the very least, that should read something like, “…which tracks mostly American and non-Russian accounts, along with a few Russians.”
These fixes don’t get at the main issue, that the source wildly inflated the Russia angle and refused to disclose whom they were really tracking. Analysts like Clint Watts remain quoted credulously, even in a story that suggests without evidence a certain account may be Russian.
Read 7 tweets
Mar 17
The Great Covid-19 Lie Machine
Stanford, the Virality Project, and the Censorship of “True Stories” Image
2.“The release of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s Spring 2020 emails… has been used to exacerbate distrust in Dr. Fauci.”
“Increased distrust in Fauci’s expert guidance.” ImageImage
3.“Reports of vaccinated individuals contracting Covid-19 anyway”; “natural immunity”; suggesting Covid-19 “leaked from a lab”; even “worrisome jokes”: ImageImageImageImage
Read 45 tweets
Mar 9
Statement to Congress

When #TwitterFiles reporters were given access to Twitter internal documents last year, we first focused on the company, which at times acted like a power above government. Image
3. But Twitter was more like a partner to government.

With other tech firms it held a regular “industry meeting” with FBI and DHS, and developed a formal system for receiving thousands of content reports from every corner of government: HHS, Treasury, NSA, even local police: ImageImage
Read 51 tweets
Mar 2
7. DFRLab is funded by the U.S. Government, specifically the Global Engagement Center (GEC).

Director Graham Brookie denies DFRLab it uses tax money to track Americans, saying its GEC grants have "an exclusively international focus.”
8. But Americans on DFR’s list, like Marysel Urbanik, are unconvinced its focus is “exclusively international.”

“This is un-American,” says Urbanik, who immigrated from Castro’s Cuba. “They do this in places that don’t believe in free speech.”
9. The Global Engagement Center is usually listed as a State Department entity.
It's not.
Created in Obama’s last year, GEC is an interagency group “within” State, whose initial partners included FBI, DHS, NSA, CIA, DARPA, Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and others.
Read 43 tweets
Mar 2
New Knowledge, the Global Engagement Center, and State-Sponsored Blacklists Image
2. On June 8, 2021, an analyst at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab wrote to Twitter:

“Hi guys. Attached you will find… around 40k twitter accounts that our researchers suspect are engaging in inauthentic behavior… and Hindu nationalism more broadly.” Image
3. DFRLab said it suspected 40,000 accounts of being “paid employees or possibly volunteers” of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But the list was full of ordinary Americans, many with no connection to India and no clue about Indian politics.… ImageImage
Read 48 tweets
Feb 22
Here’s a story from the New York Times in February, 2017, sourced to “four current and former American officials”:…
No one asked if the reporters on that story were “doing the bidding” of those sources. No one accused them of doing PR for… well, we can talk about who those sources were later.
That’s because all reported stories come from sources. They always have notices and you’re always doing a balancing test: is the story newsworthy on its own, or does it just serve someone’s agenda?
Read 6 tweets

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