Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ reveal very little, but the right won’t let that stop them

Elon Musk
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New Twitter chief and exploding-car entrepreneur Elon Musk has given a team access to the website’s data archives in order to examine its content moderation actions. The investigators include former New York Times editor Bari Weiss and podcaster-journalist Matt Taibbi, amongst others.

Their findings are being released under the hashtag #TwitterFiles, and they’re being hyped to reveal some conspiracy to suppress right-wing and fringe voices. But as always, the truth appears to be that the right is once again crying about the fact that hate speech and conspiracy theories will get you banned from social media – who’d have thought it?

Hunter Biden’s laptop, again

Taibbi’s first thread revolved around the removal of Donald Trump from the platform, and the controversy around Hunter Biden’s laptop. This story originally came from the New York Post and concerned now-US president Joe Biden’s son Hunter using his connection to his dad to get in with a Ukrainian natural gas company. Sordid, for sure, but hardly uncommon, or even condemned, in the world of politics. Taibbi claimed that:

Twitter took extraordinary steps to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it may be “unsafe.” They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool hitherto reserved for extreme cases, e.g. child pornography.

Back in the real world, the #TwitterFiles appear to have exposed… Twitter employees scrambling to react appropriately to what seemed to be a Russian hacking operation, during an incredibly volatile political moment in the US.

In turn, many Twitter users chose to focus on the outrage that right-wingers couldn’t freely post illegally obtained photographs of politicians’ family members’ genitalia:

Read on...

Shadowbanned

In turn, Weiss chose to dig into nefarious blacklisting and tweet suppression:

The problem with this masterstroke of investigative journalism is, however, that Twitter was open about the fact that it suppressed tweets. In fact, it released a blog post detailing the subject in 2018. It stated, quite clearly:

We do rank tweets and search results. We do this because Twitter is most useful when it’s immediately relevant. These ranking models take many signals into consideration to best organize tweets for timely relevance. We must also address bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation.

Nevertheless, the #TwitterFiles breathlessly reported the scandal of the suppression of… coronavirus [Covid-19] misinformation, conspiracy theorist Dan Bongino, and noted racist Charlie Kirk. If this suppression happens to sound like ‘responsible content moderation’ to you, don’t worry – you’re not alone:

Waiting for transparency

Finally, of course, we should remember that Musk’s newfound love of ‘transparency’ is deeply hypocritical:

The next instalment of the #TwitterFiles will apparently focus on coronavirus and US chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci. Surely, it will be just as measured and responsible as the previous reporting under the hashtag. Maybe eventually we’ll get around to investigating why a set of hack journalists have been given access to unknown quantities of Twitter data? Don’t hold your breath, though.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Ministério Das Comunicações, resized to 770×403 under licence CC BY 2.0

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  • Show Comments
    1. If I wanted to read CNN propaganda I’d read CNN.

      Let me see… “Political corruption directly tied to the violent and bloody coup organised by America is fine if we identity with the perps”.

      “Billionaire Big Pharma should not be criticised, despite their laundry list of death-dealing sins being longer than Grees-Moogs bank statement after he cashed in from Brexshit”.

      “Despite what the Head of the NHS Research group on Covid-19 found, Fauci is completely above board and exonerated, and anyone saying otherwise – no matter what their position at the NHS – SHOULD be censored, because that is a de facto “Conspiracy Theory””. https://theintercept.com/2022/05/19/covid-lab-leak-evidence-jeffrey-sachs/

      https://thebulletin.org/2021/05/the-origin-of-covid-did-people-or-nature-open-pandoras-box-at-wuhan/

      You also don’t mind blacklists, suppression of minority (and quite possibly majority) opinions, – just so long as YOU AGREE WITH THEM.

      Bloody hell.

      What’s next, agreeing that Starmer is right to kick all the leftists and anti-zionist Jews out of the Party? (What with their “Conspiracy Theories” that he lied to get elected, and is an Establishment Toady… we must get rid of ALL CONSPIRACY THEORISTS!!”).

      What a terrible, lamestream article. SO MUCH else that could have been written, Musk’s dalliance with the far-right, the left-wing sites that got chopped, the dangers of billionaire-worship, let alone WTF was Biden Jr even DOING in Ukraine – but no.

      A mere repeat of lamestream and highly dodgy corporate assertions.

      Meh.

      D- – can do better.

    2. Corruption of a Presidential candidate was censored, plus twitter was censoring people at the behest of the government and this is not a problem? What planet is the Canary on. Either we have freedom of speech for political views or we don’t. Just because you personally may not approve of those political views is not the point. We’ve seen Starmer doing the same thing in the Labour partty, where certain opinions are banned from being expressed. It will always be the political views that seek a change in our unequal society that ultimately will be banned.

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