Normally long messages on Twitter either appear as Twitter-threads or as a series of numbered stand-alone tweets. After a person gets to about 30 in a series, and it is generating massive discussion sometimes the Twitter-threads get broken. That’s what happened more than once. Thankfully there were generous people who attempted to put the tweets in chronological order to make them easier to read for those who have little Twitter experience. They had a difficult task.
A bit of background may help. Some weeks after Elon Musk became the owner of Twitter he promised to release information held within the Twitter databases about the events that led to the expulsion of President Trump from Twitter on 8 Jan 2021. To do this Elon selected a few journalists and gave them access to the files at Twitter. However it was a requirement that what they released had to be published on Twitter first before it was published on any other kind of media.
On Saturday 3 Dec 2022, Australian time, the first of the Twitter Files was released via @mtaibbi. It laid the groundwork for what was to follow, and each batch of Twitter Files builds on the previous batch. Bear in mind that if these things were going on at Twitter, they were certainly also going on at other social media sites and in main-stream media as well.
The first one is here, but there is irrelevant stuff between the actual tweets.
Keep going till you get to the very end.
This is part of @mtaibbi’s introduction, which is provided as an enticement to learn more:
3. The “Twitter Files” tell an incredible story from inside one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms. It is a Frankensteinian tale of a human-built mechanism grown out the control of its designer.
4. Twitter in its conception was a brilliant tool for enabling instant mass communication, making a true real-time global conversation possible for the first time.
5. In an early conception, Twitter more than lived up to its mission statement, giving people “the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”
6. As time progressed, however, the company was slowly forced to add those barriers. Some of the first tools for controlling speech were designed to combat the likes of spam and financial fraudsters.
7. Slowly, over time, Twitter staff and executives began to find more and more uses for these tools. Outsiders began petitioning the company to manipulate speech as well: first a little, then more often, then constantly.
8. By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine. One executive would write to another: “More to review from the Biden team.” The reply would come back: “Handled.”
Although further information was supposed to be released the next day, nothing happened for several days until @mtaibbi released supplemental information.
You can read it in full here:
Here is a mini summary:
“On Tuesday, Twitter Deputy General Counsel (and former FBI General Counsel) Jim Baker was fired. Among the reasons? Vetting the first batch of “Twitter Files” – without knowledge of new management.
The process for producing the “Twitter Files” involved delivery to two journalists (Bari Weiss and me) via a lawyer close to new management. However, after the initial batch, things became complicated.
Over the weekend, while we both dealt with obstacles to new searches, it was @bariweiss who discovered that the person in charge of releasing the files was Jim Baker. He had been something of a Zelig of FBI controversies dating back to 2016, from the Steele Dossier to the Alfa-Server mess.”
Within a day or two the second set of Twitter Files was released. It has the inside scoop on shadow banning. Yes, many suspected this was happening, but to see actual evidence of it was stunning.
Here are the introductory tweets for this second set of Twitter Files:
2. Twitter once had a mission “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” Along the way, barriers nevertheless were erected.
3. Take, for example, Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (@DrJBhattacharya) ) who argued that Covid lockdowns would harm children. Twitter secretly placed him on a “Trends Blacklist,” which prevented his tweets from trending.
4. Or consider the popular right-wing talk show host, Dan Bongino (@dbongino), who at one point was slapped with a “Search Blacklist.”
5. Twitter set the account of conservative activist Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) to “Do Not Amplify.”
6. Twitter denied that it does such things. In 2018, Twitter's Vijaya Gadde (then Head of Legal Policy and Trust) and Kayvon Beykpour (Head of Product) said: “We do not shadow ban.” They added: “And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
7. What many people call “shadow banning,” Twitter executives and employees call “Visibility Filtering” or “VF.” Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning.
8. “Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool,” one senior Twitter employee told us.
The rest of this series of tweets shows that shadow banning based on political viewpoints and ideology did happen. Unless you know how bad it got, it will be difficult to understand the next series of tweets.
The third set of Twitter Files was about how President Trump, while he was still President, was shadow banned in various ways before and after the 2020 American presidential elections.
Yes, while he was still in the Oval Office.
It is serious stuff. 67 tweets worth.
Here is part of the introduction:
5. Whatever your opinion on the decision to remove Trump that day, the internal communications at Twitter between January 6th-January 8th have clear historical import. Even Twitter’s employees understood in the moment it was a landmark moment in the annals of speech.
6. As soon as they finished banning Trump, Twitter execs started processing new power. They prepared to ban future presidents and White Houses – perhaps even Joe Biden. The “new administration,” says one exec, “will not be suspended by Twitter unless absolutely necessary.”
7. Twitter executives removed Trump in part over what one executive called the “context surrounding”: actions by Trump and supporters “over the course of the election and frankly last 4+ years.” In the end, they looked at a broad picture. But that approach can cut both ways.
8. The bulk of the internal debate leading to Trump’s ban took place in those three January days. However, the intellectual framework was laid in the months preceding the Capitol riots.
The fourth set of Twitter Files sadly were not numbered, and they might not be all in this link because there was a 2-to-3-hour gap between part 1 and part 2. Look for posts on 11 December from @ShellenbergerMD for the missing tweets. The previous set of Twitter Files took us up to 6 January 2021. This set takes us from there to 7 January 2021.
Here is part of the introduction:
“For years, Twitter had resisted calls to ban Trump. “Blocking a world leader from Twitter,” it wrote in 2018, “would hide important info... [and] hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”
But after the events of Jan 6, the internal and external pressure on Twitter CEO @jack (Jack Dorsey) grows. Former First Lady @michelleobama , tech journalist @karaswisher , @ADL, high-tech VC @ChrisSacca, , and many others, publicly call on Twitter to permanently ban Trump.
Dorsey was on vacation in French Polynesia the week of January 4-8, 2021. He phoned into meetings but also delegated much of the handling of the situation to senior execs @yoyoel, Twitter’s Global Head of Trust and Safety, and @vijaya, Head of Legal, Policy, & Trust.
As context, it's important to understand that Twitter’s staff & senior execs were overwhelmingly progressive. In 2018, 2020, and 2022, 96%, 98%, & 99% of Twitter staff's political donations went to Democrats.
On January 7, @Jack emails employees saying Twitter needs to remain consistent in its policies, including the right of users to return to Twitter after a temporary suspension After, Roth reassures an employee that "people who care about this... aren't happy with where we are"”
The fifth set of Twitter Files reveals the internal communications on 8 January 2021 which led to the permanent suspension of President Trump, who was still officially the President of the United States of America until 20 January 2021 when Joe Biden was sworn in.
Here is an introduction to this set of files, which may or may not be the full set of files:
7. There were dissenters inside Twitter. “Maybe because I am from China,” said one employee on January 7, “I deeply understand how censorship can destroy the public conversation.”
8. But voices like that one appear to have been a distinct minority within the company. Across Slack channels, many Twitter employees were upset that Trump hadn’t been banned earlier.
9. After January 6, Twitter employees organized to demand their employer ban Trump. “There is a lot of employee advocacy happening,” said one Twitter employee.
10. “We have to do the right thing and ban this account,” said one staffer. It’s “pretty obvious he’s going to try to thread the needle of incitement without violating the rules,” said another.
11. In the early afternoon of January 8, The Washington Post published an open letter signed by over 300 Twitter employees to CEO Jack Dorsey demanding Trump’s ban. “We must examine Twitter’s complicity in what President-Elect Biden has rightly termed insurrection.”
12. But the Twitter staff assigned to evaluate tweets quickly concluded that Trump had *not* violated Twitter’s policies. “I think we’d have a hard time saying this is incitement,” wrote one staffer.
13. “It's pretty clear he's saying the ‘American Patriots’ are the ones who voted for him and not the terrorists (we can call them that, right?) from Wednesday.”
14. Another staffer agreed: “Don’t see the incitement angle here.”
Notice that President Trump was declared innocent of violating the Twitter Terms of Service, yet he was still permanently suspended from Twitter. His account was re-instated by Elon Musk in recent weeks, although it has yet to be used. So the first thing a viewer of @realDonaldTrump’s account will see are these non-inciting tweets.
Many of the tweets that form the Twitter Files are backed up with screenshots of actual internal Twitter communications with some of the names and dates redacted.
What is on this blog-page is only a taster of what is in the full five Twitter Files. Please read and absorb it all. Understand that this kind of social media behaviour has been impacting countries throughout the world, not just America. Reading them certainly made me angry, as they should. But it should spurn us both to prayer and to action. Prayer that such evil is drained away completely and never holds sway again. Action that shares with others what you have discovered; and shares it as far as possible with those who have only ever heard the shadow banned version of events.
For evil to flourish all that is required is for the good to keep silent.
May God help us do what we must. Amen.