By 2020 it was “routine” for Twitter to grant content removal requests, journalist Matt Taibbi said.
Those requests came from both the White House and the Biden campaign during the election cycle.
Elon Musk, who hyped up Taibbi’s reporting, has spoken out against the Biden team’s actions.
Twitter in 2020 granted requests from both President Donald Trump’s White House and candidate Joe Biden’s campaign to remove content, according to a thread published Friday by independent journalist Matt Taibbi.
The long Twitter thread, dubbed “The Twitter Files,” was hyped up by Elon Musk, the social media platform’s billionaire owner and self-styled “free speech absolutist.” The thread primarily included internal communications and other details about Twitter’s controversial decision to suppress a New York Post report concerning the laptop of Biden’s son Hunter in October 2020.
But Taibbi also touched on other content moderation actions, writing that by 2020 it was “routine” for Twitter to receive requests to remove content from third-party actors.
“Both parties had access to these tools. For instance, in 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored,” he said, adding that “celebrities and unknowns alike could be removed or reviewed at the behest of a political party.”
In one example of a request, Taibbi shared an email between Twitter staff that listed five tweets the Biden team had asked them to review. Another Twitter employee replied that the tweets had been “handled.”
Taibbi did not include any details about what the tweets contained. Several of the tweets that were archived in the Wayback Machine appeared to include images of Hunter Biden that would have violated Twitter’s terms of service under its non-consensual nudity policy.
Musk responded to the screenshot of the request, writing: “If this isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, what is?”
In another tweet, he added: “Twitter acting by itself to suppress free speech is not a 1st amendment violation, but acting under orders from the government to suppress free speech, with no judicial review, is.”
The Biden campaign was a private entity — not the government — at the time of the request. Trump’s White House, however, was the government, but Musk did not address reporting that said they also made and were granted requests.
Taibbi did not provide evidence the White House — or the Biden campaign — “ordered” or coerced Twitter into removing content. The government asking a private company to do something and the company agreeing is not inherently a violation of the First Amendment, as David French wrote in The Atlantic.
Taibbi did not include any additional details or an example of a request from the White House.
Taibbi wrote that the request and remove system “wasn’t balanced” and favored Democrats, citing campaign donations made by Twitter staff. He did not provide evidence the system favored Democrats or that tweets were removed that did not violate the terms of service.
However, Twitter’s controversial decision to initially block the Post’s story on Hunter Biden, the main focus of Taibbi’s thread, did primarily impact Republicans: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was temporarily locked out of her personal Twitter account after sharing the story. But within days, Twitter backtracked on its initial response to block the story entirely, and former CEO Jack Dorsey and others from the company have said the initial decision was wrong.
Twitter, Musk, and Taibbi did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
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