Matt Taibbi: The Twitter Files Part 3: The Removal of Donald Trump I

by | Dec 13, 2022 | Ethics & Corruption

October 2020-January 6th

Removal of Donald Trump, Part 1 of 3

Next is three-part series from The Twitter Files on the complete ban of President Donald Trump from the platform. This release was authored by Matt Taibbi.

Takeaways from The Removal of Donald Trump, Part 1:

  • Internal evidentiary correspondences show the FBI attempted to influence the 2020 election towards the Democratic Party.
  • Donald Trump was the first world leader to be banned from the platform.
  • Top Twitter executives ignored their own rules in order to ban Trump.
  • Top Twitter executives had regular meetings with FBI and DHS about who should be banned.
  • FBI regularly recommended which tweets to ban, and Twitter followed such recommendations.
  • FBI recommended to ban tweets calling out election fraud. Twitter executives acknowledged that the tweets were legitimate, but continued to ban them.
  • Not a single tweet moderation request was submitted by the Trump campaign, Trump White House or Republican Party during this time period.

The Twitter Files

(read the releases)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 - Banning of Trump (1) | Part 4 - Banning of Trump (2)

Twitter Files Part 3: The Removal of Donald Trump (1 of 3)

By Matt Taibbi

1. THREAD: The Twitter Files THE REMOVAL OF DONALD TRUMP Part One: October 2020-January 6th

2. The world knows much of the story of what happened between riots at the Capitol on January 6th, and the removal of President Donald Trump from Twitter on January 8th…

3. We’ll show you what hasn’t been revealed: the erosion of standards within the company in months before J6, decisions by high-ranking executives to violate their own policies, and more, against the backdrop of ongoing, documented interaction with federal agencies.

4. This first installment covers the period before the election through January 6th. Tomorrow, @Shellenbergermd will detail the chaos inside Twitter on January 7th. On Sunday, @BariWeiss will reveal the secret internal communications from the key date of January 8th.

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.

Twitter Files - first sitting head of state to be suspended

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.”

Twitter on suspending White House accounts - from The Twitter Files

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.

Twitter on using Trumps historical context for banning

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.

9. Before J6, Twitter was a unique mix of automated, rules-based enforcement, and more subjective moderation by senior executives. As @BariWeiss reported, the firm had a vast array of tools for manipulating visibility, most all of which were thrown at Trump (and others) pre-J6.

10. As the election approached, senior executives – perhaps under pressure from federal agencies, with whom they met more as time progressed – increasingly struggled with rules, and began to speak of “vios” as pretexts to do what they’d likely have done anyway.

11. After J6, internal Slacks show Twitter executives getting a kick out of intensified relationships with federal agencies. Here’s Trust and Safety head Yoel Roth, lamenting a lack of “generic enough” calendar descriptions to concealing his “very interesting” meeting partners.

Yeol Roth on meetings with the FBI - The Twitter Files

12. These initial reports are based on searches for docs linked to prominent executives, whose names are already public. They include Roth, former trust and policy chief Vijaya Gadde, and recently plank-walked Deputy General Counsel (and former top FBI lawyer) Jim Baker.

13. One particular slack channel offers an unique window into the evolving thinking of top officials in late 2020 and early 2021.

14. On October 8th, 2020, executives opened a channel called “us2020_xfn_enforcement.” Through J6, this would be home for discussions about election-related removals, especially ones that involved “high-profile” accounts (often called “VITs” or “Very Important Tweeters”).

Internal Twitter Slack channel set up for 2020 election Tweets

15. There was at least some tension between Safety Operations – a larger department whose staffers used a more rules-based process for addressing issues like porn, scams, and threats – and a smaller, more powerful cadre of senior policy execs like Roth and Gadde.

16. The latter group were a high-speed Supreme Court of moderation, issuing content rulings on the fly, often in minutes and based on guesses, gut calls, even Google searches, even in cases involving the President.

Twitter executives making calls on rigged election in Ohio - Twitter Files

17. During this time, executives were also clearly liaising with federal enforcement and intelligence agencies about moderation of election-related content. While we’re still at the start of reviewing the #TwitterFiles, we’re finding out more about these interactions every day.

18. Policy Director Nick Pickles is asked if they should say Twitter detects “misinfo” through “ML, human review, and **partnerships with outside experts?*” The employee asks, “I know that’s been a slippery process… not sure if you want our public explanation to hang on that.”

Twitter Marketing talking about outside partnerships
Nick Pickles suggests referring FBI DHS as Twitter partners

19. Pickles quickly asks if they could “just say “partnerships.” After a pause, he says, “e.g. not sure we’d describe the FBI/DHS as experts.”

Nick Pickles suggests referring FBI DHS as Twitter partners

20. This post about the Hunter Biden laptop situation shows that Roth not only met weekly with the FBI and DHS, but with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI):

Yoel Roth admits to weekly and monthly discussions with FBI DHS

21. Roth’s report to FBI/DHS/DNI is almost farcical in its self-flagellating tone:
“We blocked the NYP story, then unblocked it (but said the opposite)… comms is angry, reporters think we’re idiots… in short, FML” (fuck my life).

Twitter on using Trumps historical context for banning

23. Some of Roth’s later Slacks indicate his weekly confabs with federal law enforcement involved separate meetings. Here, he ghosts the FBI and DHS, respectively, to go first to an “Aspen Institute thing,” then take a call with Apple.

Yoel Roth says he cant make a FBI DHS meeting

24. Here, the FBI sends reports about a pair of tweets, the second of which involves a former Tippecanoe County, Indiana Councilor and Republican named @JohnBasham claiming “Between 2% and 25% of Ballots by Mail are Being Rejected for Errors.”

FBI shows concern about shredding ballot tweets

The FBI’s second report concerned this tweet by @JohnBasham:

FBI requested this John Basham tweet be removed

25. The FBI-flagged tweet then got circulated in the enforcement Slack. Twitter cited Politifact to say the first story was “proven to be false,” then noted the second was already deemed “no vio on numerous occasions.”

FBI shows concern about shredding ballot tweets

26. The group then decides to apply a “Learn how voting is safe and secure” label because one commenter says, “it’s totally normal to have a 2% error rate.” Roth then gives the final go-ahead to the process initiated by the FBI:

Yeol Roth give go ahead to FBI request.

27. Examining the entire election enforcement Slack, we didn’t see one reference to moderation requests from the Trump campaign, the Trump White House, or Republicans generally. We looked. They may exist: we were told they do. However, they were absent here.

The Twitter Files

(read the releases)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 - Banning of Trump (1) | Part 4 - Banning of Trump (2)

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