by Batya Ungar-Sargon
Monday, 5
December 2022
Analysis
17:30

The most surprising revelation in Elon Musk’s Twitter files

Despite the CEO's claim, there was no evidence of government collusion
by Batya Ungar-Sargon
Twitter’s new overlord. Credit: Getty

At 6:34 pm on Friday evening, journalist Matt Taibbi began a lengthy Twitter thread which he titled “The Twitter Files.” Twitter’s new owner and CEO, Elon Musk, had given Taibbi access to a huge trove of documents related to Twitter’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story. What Taibbi found was further details about a story we largely know: Twitter knowingly and actively suppressed the New York Post’s reporting on the laptop.

Taibbi reported that both the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign reached out regularly to ask Twitter to investigate and remove posts, but when it came to the Hunter Biden laptop story, Twitter went into overdrive, falsely categorising the story as “hacked materials” early on, then locking prominent accounts that shared it, and even barring the story from being shared in DMs.


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But perhaps the most surprising thing Taibbi reported was that the government was not behind the suppression of the laptop story. Here’s the crucial bit from Taibbi: “Although several sources recalled hearing about a “general” warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence – that I’ve seen – of any government involvement in the laptop story.”

This was not, however, the message Elon Musk took from the Twitter Files. In response to a tweet claiming that Taibbi had shown that the Biden team colluded with Twitter before the election, Elon Musk tweeted “correct”.

Yet this is exactly what Taibbi said he hadn’t found in the Twitter files, or at least, to the extent that the Biden team “colluded with Twitter”, so had the Trump team.

But the idea that Biden and even the government or the Deep State was involved in the Hunter Biden coverup seems to be the message many have wrongly taken from Taibbi’s reporting, following Musk’s lead. The most shared tweet in Taibbi’s thread lists a few tweets the Biden team asked Twitter to review, with someone from Team Twitter responding “handled these”. Many are sharing this as a “smoking gun” of sorts. But looking at the links Team Biden asked Twitter to review into a site that archives deleted tweets, as Christian Schneider did, you can see that one of them is a photo of the Biden family and the rest are pictures of Hunter Biden’s genitals.

This is not quite the smoking gun it’s being touted as. And yet, to Elon Musk, this was proof of the highest form of corruption. As he put it in a tweet responding to those examples, “If this isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, what is?”

Not this.

What the files actually show is the same egregious behaviour we already knew Twitter engaged in. They reveal how deeply captured the company has been captured by the Left. This understandably makes conservatives see red, but not everything that’s unfair is unconstitutional or a threat to democracy.

If there is a threat Twitter being free, it’s Musk himself. Musk has extensive economic ties with a regime hostile to America, so much so that he has closed his eyes to the genocide being carried out by the Chinese Communist Party in the Xinjiang region, where Musk infamously built a showroom for Tesla. He’s also bowed to pressure to store data collected by his electric cars in mainland China, where it is subject to CCP surveillance.

The most important question for Musk, then, is will freedom of speech on Twitter take a back seat to the Tesla CEO’s allegiance to China?

On Saturday night, we got a front row seat to how unwilling Musk is to address this point. Musk participated in a Twitter Spaces chat that had over 100,000 listeners, who were encouraged to submit questions via DM. I tried, with multiple addresses, to ask him a question about his economic entanglements with the CCP, but it soon became clear that this was a topic he did not wish to discuss.

Indeed, the two times China came up during the discussion — in the context of free speech and the recent protests — Musk was quickly rescued from having to address the question by sycophantic moderators who deemed the questions irrelevant and quickly changed the subject.

A crusader on behalf of free speech should be able to say a kind word for China’s protestors. More importantly, the question is not what Musk is doing for China’s citizens, but to protect the speech of American citizens from the Chinese Communist Party.

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Dave Mil
Dave Mil
2 months ago

This is a glaring and embarrassing misreading of the meaning of the tweet: “Although several sources recalled hearing about a “general” warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence – that I’ve seen – of any government involvement in the laptop story.”
This refers to any Russian government involvement i.e. it wasn’t Russian disinformation.
The key point here is a trust issue. The mainstream/legacy media all reported on this as being Russian disinformation without a shred of evidence, and then they colluded with Big Tech to supress the story right before the election.
The story is about Joe Biden’s shady business deals in Ukraine and China.
I don’t understand how people still don’t seem to get it.

michael harris
michael harris
2 months ago
Reply to  Dave Mil

If you read Graeme McNeil’s posts (above) it’s clear how some people very aggressively don’t get it.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  michael harris

If by “don’t get it” you mean “doesn’t fall for clearly ridiculous stories planted by far right wing activists that only a moron would believe” then yeah, I guess I don’t get it.
You guys sure do though, don’t you?!?!?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 months ago

a story we largely know: Twitter knowingly and actively suppressed the New York Post’s reporting on the laptop

Depends who you think “we” is, given that it wasn’t run by the legacy media, and, as you say, actively suppressed, not just by Twitter , but by Facebook and pretty much everyone else to the left of Tucker Carlson.
How would that other “we” even know this happened?

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago

What, exactly, do you think happened?
A joke story was ignored by the media. You think this is a big deal?

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

In what possible way is it a joke?

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

You really think this Tucker Carlson wet dream is for real? That’s cute!

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

“A joke story was ignored by the media”
It wasn’t ignored, it was suppressed.
And if it was a joke story, it wouldn’t have been.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

So your theory is that joke stories about political candidates should be covered by the media?
I suppose if you love Trump, who is a joke politician, then joke stories are what you like. Us normal folks prefer facts.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

FromTaibbi: “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.”
“ongoing, documented interaction with federal agencies.”
nothing to see here of course…

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
2 months ago

I agree there’s no smoking gun in the tweets released by Musk. Doesn’t mean the FBI and govt didn’t get involved. We know they did from Zuckerberg.

The biggest revelation for me was the fact they censored the story, knowing it was unethical to do so, and then looked for reasons to justify the censorship. Creepy stuff right there.

Although Musk’s relationship with the CCP deserves scrutiny. Not sure this was the forum to do it.

Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Exactly Zuckerberg said the FBI told FB to block the story.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago

Quite the worst analysis of the Taibbi tweets that I’ve read.

John Sullivan
John Sullivan
2 months ago

‘Analysis’?

Jill Corel
Jill Corel
2 months ago

Nice to see you back Lesley! I missed your comments.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  Jill Corel

Thanks Jill!

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
2 months ago

”Despite the CEO’s claim, there was no evidence of government collusion”
Despite the article’s writer’s claim claim, there is huge evidence of government collusion. I would call it Proof.
This smoking gun is held in the hand of the Democrat Party White House, as they stand over the corpse of the election for President, and a very great many others, that they shot in cold blood thinking no one was looking.

I mean, my God, it is as if you are looking down on the planet Earth from the International Space Station, in all its globalness and saying – No, The World is Completely Flat.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Very impressive hyperbole. Now could you give us a link to this overwhelming and conclusive mountain of proof, please?

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I very much doubt that he can.
It doesn’t exist.

Dan Steele
Dan Steele
2 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Elvis Chan testified to state AGs from Missouri & Louisiana this week that the agency “held weekly meetings w/Big Tech companies in Silicon Valley ahead of the ’20 presidential election to discuss ‘disinformation’ on social media & ask about efforts to censor that information.” From https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2022/12/03/morris-the-questions-twitter-hasnt-answered-about-its-treatment-of-the-laptop-from-hell-story/

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan Steele

Breitbart?!?! LOL!

Ddwieland
Ddwieland
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Dismissing a source without consideration of the information is contrary to intelligent discourse, which is what I expect and usually find at Unherd.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan Steele

So the FBI met with tech companies to check whether foreign powers were trying to distort the US election. One would hope so, they would not be doing their job otherwise. Unless you think the FSB is a legitimate participant, and it is wrong to block them? Before you can raise eyebrows, let alone suspicion, you need to show what they were talking about.

One question I would like answered is who held the information about that laptop and made sure it was released just a few weeks before the election. The laptop may well be genuine, but the information release stinks of being a Republican ‘dirty tricks’ operation. ANy help on this?

Ddwieland
Ddwieland
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Let’s not confuse strategic release of valid information with “dirty tricks”, which distort or fabricate “facts”.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan Steele

It is right for the FBI to ensure that disinformation doesn’t undermine the electoral process. It is also pertinent to remember that disinformation can come from any side. Again not a smoking gun.

Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
2 months ago

Where’s the disinformation in the existence of the lap top?

aaron david
aaron david
2 months ago

The First Amendment, specifically Freedom of Speech / Freedom of the Press, overrides any and all claims of “disinformation” which were simply dishonest attempts to quash information that could damage one political party that is favored by the administration.
Sending the FBI is akin to sending in the KGB or the SAS in to ask about a code violation.

D.C. Harris
D.C. Harris
2 months ago

What this author fails to take into account is the silencing of the New York Post Twitter account, which brings up the issue as to whether these large social media companies function as publishers or as public platforms. This is the key issue, and to ignore it is to bury ones head in the sand. At some point the courts will address this, and the issue is of far more consequence than what she thinks of Elon Musk.

Moreover, the fact that Twitter obediently removed anything at all at the behest of the Biden campaign and the Democratic party betrays the conflict of interest apparent when so many individuals who now work for the Biden administration also are (and have been) on the boards of these same social media companies.

Last edited 2 months ago by D.C. Harris
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 months ago
Reply to  D.C. Harris

It does place the DNC and Biden campaign is the spotlight for an in-kind contribution that the Election Commission will need to resolve. As more tweets are released we will see if there was a government involvement beyond FBI meetings.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
2 months ago

Wow! Are you okay?
Whilst the entire watching world can plainly see that the Emperor is quite obviously naked, and his tailors are exposed as charlatans, we still have members of the craven media who invite us to ignore the evidence of our own eyes and merely marvel at his fabulous new set of clothes – oh and those cool Aviators, maaan!

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
2 months ago

Thank you for bringing these issues to light–I for one was not aware of Musk’s accommodations with the CCP.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
2 months ago

There was no need for active collusion between the Biden administration and Twitter. “(TheTwitter emails) reveal how deeply captured the company has been captured by the Left (sic),” says the writer, and then goes on to muddy the waters with a largely speculative Chinese connection that deserves study, but shouldn’t divert attention from the established active subversion of an American election by a self-selected band of techno-bullies at Twitter.

Last edited 2 months ago by Daniel Lee
Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 months ago

I would keep an eye on a Mr. James Baker going forward in this story.

Last edited 2 months ago by Matt Hindman
Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Yes – very few people seemed to have picked up on his involvement in this.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Musk has just fired Baker.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 months ago

No smoking gun.
I should think not. Good lord, old chap, who do you think we are? Amateurs?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
2 months ago

Yes, it was simply amazing that they didn’t find a written memo entitled, “Please Suppress the Hunter Laptop Story”.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
2 months ago

Keep digging, Capital J journalist.

Rob N
Rob N
2 months ago

Your correctly quote Matt Taibbi’s tweet but it is unclear if he means no foreign govt involvement or no govt (inc US) or just no US Govt involvement. Would be good if Taibbi would clarify.
However good to know about Musk and the CCP. Always dodgy to have Tesla in China etc and hope that he can extract himself/Tesla.

Helen Moorhouse
Helen Moorhouse
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob N

I take it to mean that there was no evidence that Trump’s team was responsible for manufacturing the Hunter Biden story.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago

Wrong. Giuliani, when not organizing press conferences outside of garden centres and being fooled by Borat, was integral to this entire farrago because of course he was!
The whole thing is a joke from start to finish.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
2 months ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Although you appear to be seething with hatred, and displaying an extraordinary level of vehement over what you have called a “joke” in many posts, I have not seen an iota of evidence that you or anyone has presented that would indicate that the Hunter laptop was not genuine. The difference between us is that if such evidence was presented and corroborated, my opinions would change. Apparently, you don’t have that capability.
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/data-from-hunter-bidens-laptop-is-real-and-was-not-planted-by-russians-looking-to-frame-the-biden-family-cbs-news/ar-AA14ngSW
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-hunter-biden-laptop-is-real-11625868661
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hunter-biden-laptop-data-analysis/
https://www.dailywire.com/news/cbs-finally-admits-hunters-laptop-is-real-more-than-two-years-after-the-fact

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
2 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Please indicate where I appear to be “seething with hatred”. I am simply making fun of people who are stupid enough to believe a word that Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani say. I assume you are one of those people!
Anyone who considers the Daily Wire to be evidence of anything is clearly very, very gullible.

Last edited 2 months ago by Graeme McNeil
Ddwieland
Ddwieland
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Dear sir, you might consider that being dogmatically dismissive of any source you deem to be “on the wrong side” is displaying unwarranted trust, i.e., gullibility, toward mainstream and Big Tech sources.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 month ago

Well they just fired the Twitter Associate General Counsel yesterday for interfering in this reporting process by ‘reviewing’ the material that went to the journalists. He used to work for thr FBI – you can’t make this up. Elon indicated there is evidence that information was deleted by him. So maybe that is why there wasn’t the smoking gun evidence the author is looking for.

David Barnett
David Barnett
1 month ago

All of big tech is deeply compromised re China because of (1) outsourced production, (2) the desire to be in a huge and growing market.
.
Therefore expect a softly-softly approach re China. But that does not alter the significance of trying to clean the home house. Musk playing the “good guy” re cleaning Twitter may also be a way of trying to protect himself from deep-state coercion.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago

This is such a poorly written article (and not even proof read) so it is hard to take it seriously.
Is the the fact that Musk does not call out human rights abuses in China where he has major business interests worse than Twitter censoring a story which was obviously harmful to the Biden campaign? I don’t know. Are the two even related/comparable?

Rob N
Rob N
1 month ago

“there was no evidence of government collusion” seems an odd thing to say. There may be no PROOF of US Govt mandated censorship but there seems to have been plenty of proof of collusion of US Govt, inc agencies, and a willingly led Twitter/MSM and even evidence of de facto mandated censorship. Just that these crooks have learnt not to leave clearly criminal proof lying everywhere.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
1 month ago

There was clearly censorship. How often do we “prove” the never ending covert acts by the government?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 months ago

A very reasoned and important article. There doesn’t need to be government interference, Twitter, itself, is capable of making these decisions based on its own biaises.

Last edited 2 months ago by Linda Hutchinson
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 months ago

Prior to Hillary’s loss we never knew much about misinformation. Once that door opened to its political use, Twitter and other biased platforms became agents for a political party. They should declare their bias.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

I agree that they should declare their biases, but it doesn’t change what I’m saying. For example, we all know that The Guardian is biased to the left and the Daily Mail is biased to the right, but it is not necessary for the Labour Pary or the Conservative Party to tell them what to write; their own biases do the job. It’s the same with Twitter they will react to Democrate complaints and less so to Republican complaints because of their own bias, not because the Democratic party tells them to.