Elon Musk revealed the release of senior emails from Twitter Inc. that illustrate part of the internal debate within the social network surrounding a problematic move to obstruct access to a New York Post article on a laptop that was purportedly held by Hunter Biden in 2020.
The author Matt Taibbi posted several tweets and images of what he said were taken from Twitter and were internal emails and messages, but he didn’t say how he acquired them. The billionaire Musk, who took over Twitter in late October, has been claiming to stand up for free speech in a recent string of tweets and accusing sponsors like Apple Inc. of doing the opposite. Musk began teasing the publication of “the Twitter Files” this week.
A New York Post piece from late 2020 that made unsubstantiated assertions about Hunter Biden’s operations in Ukraine was restricted on Twitter during the last weeks of the presidential race. At the time, Twitter said that the Post report contained screenshots and photographs that were against the “Hacked Materials Policy” of the firm, which restricts users from posting images of stolen content online. The firm prohibited users from tweeting the article.
Later, Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey stated that it was “inappropriate” to restrict the connections without providing further detail. Shortly after limiting the Biden story, the firm modified its rules, announcing that it will “label tweets to add context instead of prohibiting links” to stories. Along with Meta Platforms Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Dorsey also spoke to Congress in November 2020 and answered questions over the incident.
Taibbi cites a message from that period in which Trenton Kennedy, a member of Twitter’s communications team, questioned why the news was being withheld to Vijaya Gadde, head of law and policy, and Yoel Roth, head of site integrity.
“I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe, and I think the best explainability argument for this externally would be that we’re waiting to understand if this story is the result of hacked materials,” Taibbi’s tweets show Kennedy as writing. “We’ll face hard questions on this if we don’t have some kind of solid reasoning for marking the link unsafe.”
On Friday, Kennedy opted not to comment on the story.
Musk hinted in a post on the network that he helped organize the tweet storm on Friday, stating, “We’re double-checking facts, so probably start live tweeting in about 40 minutes.” Musk was aware of the impending tweet storm on Friday. Musk tweeted, “Here we go!!” as Taibbi started to tweet.
Even if Musk tried to raise interest in the document’s release, the information released by Taibbi on Friday barely added anything new to an incident that occurred two years ago. Although Musk is in charge, has fired several top executives, and actively supported Taibbi’s tweets on Friday, it is unclear who gave the go-ahead for the release of the Twitter information. Since the document release was only filtered through one reporter, its full scope was unclear.
Conservative media groups allegedly used information from a laptop that Hunter Biden left at a Wilmington, Delaware, repair shop during the 2020 presidential campaign. The files, whose provenance was not confirmed by Bloomberg News, were allegedly used by then-President Donald Trump’s campaign to refute Joe Biden’s claims that he and his son never discussed transnational business affairs.
Some Republicans claimed that President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump was aided by Twitter’s decision to ban the news, but the Federal Election Commission found last year that Twitter had not violated any election rules in doing so.
Joe Biden is currently preparing for investigations headed by Republicans that will look at Hunter Biden and his financial transactions in the upcoming year. Republican lawmakers claim that the president’s son exploited his ties to the family and put his father in a conflict of interest; both men dispute these claims. Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House, declined to comment on Friday.
During his first few weeks in leadership at Twitter, Musk has made an effort to appease both sides of the online speech argument, but, like previous Twitter CEOs, he has mainly been unsuccessful.
Musk on Thursday grounded musician Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, for spreading antisemitic tweets, angering some conservatives who have complained that Twitter is too strict with moderation. Others are furious that Musk allowed hundreds of banned accounts, including Trump’s, to return to the platform because they believe Twitter doesn’t go far enough in its content monitoring.
According to a New York Times report published on Friday, hate speech on Twitter has dramatically increased since Musk took over. Musk responded by calling the report “utterly false.”