The so-called Twitter files are the brainchild of Twitter owner Elon Musk, who has said he wants to show “what really happened” behind the scenes regarding content moderation decisions at the social media company before he bought it in October. .
The Twitter archives have trickled down throughout December, with three journalists, Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss and Michael Shellenberger, delving into internal documents and discussions to highlight the company’s decision-making process around some high-profile actions, such as banning former President Donald Trump in January 2020.
Under Musk, who has said he wants Twitter to be a mecca for free speech, the company has, like those of Trump, far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ye (the rapper formerly known as Kanye West). Musk has been critical of previous management’s content moderation decisions, arguing that they engaged in censorship.
Here’s what you need to know about the Twitter files and what they reveal.
What are Twitter archives?
The Twitter archives consist of thousands of internal documents, including many Slack discussions, between Twitter employees about their content moderation decisions.
So far, there have been five Twitter Files releases, each focusing on a different facet of Twitter content moderation.
- Twitter Archives Part 1 it focuses on the company’s decisions around the news about the material found in what is supposed to be Hunter Biden’s laptop.
- Twitter Archives Part 2 highlights how Twitter used tools to reduce the visibility of some accounts.
- Twitter Archives Part 3 focuses on Twitter’s decision to remove Trump from the platform after the January 6 assault on the United States Capitol.
- Twitter Archives Part 4 adds details about Twitter’s removal of Trump.
- Twitter Archives Part 5 provides more information on Twitter’s decision to ban Trump.
What do the Twitter archives show?
The internal discussions allegedly reveal debates among Twitter executives over content moderation issues, such as whether Trump had violated the company’s content policies with several of his tweets after the January 6 attack.
The files are also said to shed light on the tools used by the platform to deal with accounts or tweets that violated its policies at the time, such as limiting the visibility of a tweet or user. Bari Weiss, one of the journalists Musk provided the documents to, tweeted that decisions to “actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even hot topics” were made “in secret, without informing users.”
Most of the accounts highlighted by Weiss were linked to conservative voices, such as the far-right account @libsoftiktok and conservative activist Charlie Kirk.
The Twitter Archives also analyzes the company’s decisions regarding tweets related to reports of, which was allegedly left at a Delaware computer repair shop and turned over to the FBI under subpoena. The New York Post broke the story in October 2020.
What about Hunter Biden’s laptop?
In the case of the New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, journalist Matt Taibbi wrote that internal documents show that Twitter “went extraordinary measures to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it may be ‘unsafe’.” ‘”.
“They even blocked their direct message transmission, a tool until now reserved for extreme cases, for example, child pornography,” he tweeted.
Taibbi added: “There is no evidence, that I have seen, of any government involvement in the laptop story.” However, internal discussions show that executives were confused and sometimes disagreed with the decision to suppress the story.
Taibbi also noted that Twitter sometimes received requests from “connected actors” to remove tweets, with Twitter
employees responding, “managed”. Taibbi wrote that the requests came from “both parties,” meaning Republicans and Democrats.
How has Elon Musk responded?
Musk has been promoting the Twitter files to his legion of followers online and highlighted some of the findings as evidence that Twitter had suppressed free speech.
For example, in response to Taibbi’s tweet that “connected actors” contacted Twitter to remove the tweets, Musk wrote: “If this isn’t a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, what is?”
However, as experts point out, the First Amendment protects people from government infraction on your right to free speech: It does not require private companies like Twitter to allow free speech. That’s why companies like Twitter, Facebook, and other forums can enforce content standards and moderate what appears on their services.
After some Twitter users pointed out to Musk that Taibbi’s tweet did not, in fact, show a First Amendment violation, Musk responded: “Twitter acting by itself to suppress free speech is not a violation of the First Amendment, but is acting on the orders of the government.” suppressing free speech, without judicial review, is.”
However, the Twitter files do not appear to show that the government gave orders to Twitter, only that the company received “requests” from both parties and also, on occasion, consulted with the FBI and other agencies.
Reaction to Twitter files
The most infamous response so far has come from the former Trump, who claimed that internal documents suggest that parts of the US Constitution.His comments, made on his conservative social media platform Truth Social, were immediately condemned by Democrats, while some Republicans also criticized his comments.
Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, on the other hand, wrote in a blog post that the Twitter archives show no “bad intentions or hidden agendas.” He added: “Everyone acted on the best information we had at the time.”
Others say the Twitter archives haven’t lived up to expectations, and it’s also unclear if any context has been omitted or overlooked.
For example, some left accounts They have also been banned by Twitter, but the Twitter archives released to date have not addressed discussion or decision-making around those steps. the atlantic I call the Twitter archives “sloppy, anecdotal, no context, and, well, old news.”
As for its broader impact, that may be most apparent in the changes Musk made to Twitter’s content moderation policies and practices. Despite his defense of “free speech,” Musk has drawn a line on what’s allowed on the social media site, such as his announcement that Twitter.
“I have no mercy on anyone who uses the death of children to gain money, politics or fame,” Musk wrote of that decision.