Elon Musk has put journalists Bari Weiss and Matt Taibbi in charge of releasing the next round of “Twitter files,” or private internal communications shared by former Twitter executives, despite “having hardly read any” of the documents.
“I gave Bari Weiss access to The Twitter Files an hour ago,” Musk announced during a live Twitter Spaces panel on Saturday. “At some point it might make sense to have them publicly available so that anyone can look at them. The general idea is to surface anything bad Twitter has done in the past.”
On Friday, Taibbi published the first round of files in a lengthy thread containing documents ostensibly given to him by Musk.
“What you’re about to read is the first installment in a series, based upon thousands of internal documents obtained by sources at Twitter,” Taibbi wrote. “The Twitter Files, Part One: How and Why Twitter Blocked the Hunter Biden Laptop Story.”
The 36 tweets contain screenshots of emails between former Twitter executives as they deliberated how to handle an article about Hunter Biden shortly before the 2020 election. The New York Post reported that Biden’s laptop contained a “smoking-gun email” revealing that he introduced his father to a Ukraine energy executive the government began investigating months later.
Ultimately, Twitter decided to block the story without consulting co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, said Taibbi.
“Twitter took extraordinary steps to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it may be ‘unsafe,’” read the 18th tweet in the thread. “They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool hitherto reserved for extreme cases, e.g. child pornography.”
He followed that with an email illustrating how Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was allegedly “locked out of her account for tweeting about the story.”
Taibbi claims that Twitter carried out tweet removal requests from both Biden’s campaign and the Trump administration.
Musk, a vocal critic of censorship and self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist”, overhauled the company’s content-moderation policies when he became its owner. After promising he wouldn’t make any major changes until he formed a content moderation policy committee, Musk abolished the existing content moderation team, leaving automation to do most of the work.
According to a new study, hate speech on the platform has skyrocketed since Musk took over in late October.