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Monday, January 30, 2023

Twittergate: Key takeaways from exposed censorship of Hunter Biden laptop scoop

Date:

 Twitter CEO Elon Musk planted a popcorn emoji next to his promise of “awesome” revelations about how the microblogging site had opted to censor the “Hunter Biden story.” And the billionaire Tesla CEO followed through on his promise.

The first instalment of the so-called “Twitter Files” was dropped on December 2 after Musk had provided investigative journalist Matt Taibi with the social media platform’s internal documents.

Twitter, conceived as a platform “to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers,” has been gradually injected with tools for “controlling speech” by its staff and executives, wrote independent journalist Matt Taibbi in a thread on his account. While tailored to combat spam and financial fraudsters, over time, the company found itself “petitioned” to “manipulate speech.”

The original Hunter Biden scoop and how Twitter dealt with it is a glaring case in point, according to the journalist.

The exclusive story run by The New York Post on October 14, 2020 first hinted at a pay-to-play corruption scheme whereby Hunter Biden had peddled access to his father Joe Biden while the latter was serving as Barack Obama’s vice-president to businessmen and women from a host of foreign entities.

The details emerged after over 200 gigabytes of data, including nearly 130,000 emails, plus thousands of text messages from Hunter Biden’s iPhone, photos and videos, and other files were discovered on the damaged MacBook Pro he had left at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware.

It was store owner John Paul Mac Isaac who recovered the data and zeroed in on the potentially “geopolitically sensitive” information about Hunter’s alleged shady dealings with foreign businessmen.

The reporting on the story was swept under the rug by mainstream media, declared a “Russian disinformation” scheme and censored by Facebook and Twitter.

“The Twitter Files, Part One: How and Why Twitter Blocked the Hunter Biden Laptop Story” is based on redacted emails of employees of the social media site. Here are some of the key takeaways from part one of the revelations shedding light on Twitter’s dubious censorship decision.

Twitter posted warnings that the bombshell Hunter Biden story might be “unsafe” at an early stage, not only ditching all links to it, but even blocking its transmission via direct message (a measure used for extreme cases such as child pornography).

Furthermore, White House spokeswoman at the time, Kaleigh McEnany, was locked out of her account for tweeting about the story just weeks ahead of the 2020 presidential election. This prompted Donald Trump campaign staff member Mike Hahn to pen a missive to the social media company to quiery when she would be unlocked. The response was that McEnany had violated the company’s “hacked materials” policy.

A small group of top-level executives at Twitter opted for the decision to label the original Hunter Biden story as “hacked material” without any evidence. Many staff, like, for example, Trenton Kennedy, a communications official, reportedly “struggled” to understand the “policy basis” for marking the Hunter Biden laptop story as “unsafe.”

Thus, the leaked emails reveal former VP of Global Comms Brandon Borrman questioning whether they could “truthfully claim that this is part of the policy.”

In response to those questioning the rationale, former Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker was seen as appearing to argue that it was “reasonable” to assume materials were hacked and that “caution is warranted.”

But despite the fact that “everyone knew this was f***ed,” one former employee said, no one appeared to have the resolve to stand up to it.

Indeed, at the time, a plethora of mainstream outlets also eagerly sought to discredit the story.

The reporting was declared a “Russian disinformation” scheme and censored by Facebook as well.

However, a couple of mainstream media outlets confirmed that the laptop was authentic earlier this year, and that the damning information contained on the device was genuine amid ongoing Justice Department investigations into Hunter Biden’s taxes and dubious foreign consulting work.

The move to censor the laptop reporting was taken behind the back of then-CEO and founder Jack Dorsey. Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former head of legal, policy, and trust, had taken on a “key role” in the decision. According to Taibbi, the leaked internal communications lay bare the truth about “how much was done without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey, and how long it took for the situation to get ‘unf***ed’ even after Dorsey jumped in.”

Meanwhile, the first instalment of the “Twitter Files” elicited an immediate response from the Republicans, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, Sens. Rand Paul and Josh Hawley, and the House Republican’s official Twitter account.

McCarthy vowed that after House Republicans officially take majority control of the lower chamber, in January, they intended to “get answers for the American people and the accountability they deserve.”

The House Republicans’ Twitter account also tweeted to point to the revelations as showing “what collusion looks like.”

Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene, who went on the platform to share a video of then-President Donald Trump slamming Joe Biden as a “criminal” over the damning Hunter Biden revelations, added that “Twittergate” proved that the 45th POTUS has been “right all along.”

Earlier, GOP lawmakers announced a formal probe into the activities of the Biden family, citing suspected criminal activity, some of which they allege may pose a threat to national security.

After gaining control of the House in the November midterm elections, the Republicans from the chamber’s Committee on Oversight and Reform announced that a formal inquiry into the Biden family’s business activities would be conducted once the next Congress is sworn in in January 2023.

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