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twitter files

Written by Haniya Ali 2:15 pm Articles, Current Affairs, Published Content

The Case of the Twitter Files

In December 2022, Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, released the Twitter Files—the company’s internal emails, documents, and Slack conversations that revolve around company rules and critical decisions made before Musk took over. Twitter’s controversial decision to censor the New York Post’s article on the information obtained from a laptop allegedly owned by Hunter Biden, the son of US President Joe Biden, is particularly significant here.
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About the Author(s)
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Haniya Ali is pursuing her Bachelor's in Government and Public Policy from National Defence University, Islamabad.

Uncovering the Files

The Twitter Files that Matt Taibbi released in the form of screenshots purport to show the decisions made in the company in 2020 when it decided to block an article published that featured unsubstantiated claims about the business dealings of Hunter Biden in Ukraine. Twitter claimed that it had removed the story because it violated its “hacked materials” policy.

Fundamentally, these releases seem to demonstrate that Twitter unilaterally chose to restrict the article’s dissemination without any political pressure. US representative Rohit Khanna advised Twitter to share the story.

According to some statements, Twitter’s communications team member, Trenton Kennedy, allegedly asked Yoel Roth, the integrity manager, and Vijaya Gadde, the legal and policy director, why the news was being withheld. Kennedy is quoted in Taibbi’s tweets as saying, “I’m struggling to understand the policy justification for designating this as hazardous, and I think the best explainability argument for this externally would be that we’re waiting to learn if this report is the result of hacked materials.”

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The FBI, as had been previously stated by conservative critics, had nothing to do with the story being blocked, according to Taibbi’s disclosure. Another important fact is that Twitter frequently received deletion requests from users of all political stripes. There were more methods to complain open to the left (well, Democrats) than the right because Twitter was—and still is—largely staffed and followed by the people of one political inclination.

The Bidens

Only three weeks before the 2020 US presidential elections, New York Post published a report titled ‘Biden’s Secret Emails: Ukrainian exec praised Hunter Biden for “chance to meet” veep dad.’ The Post reported that exclusive documents discovered on the laptop included “a filthy, 12-minute film” depicting the personal life of Hunter Biden, and they supposedly indicated how he had traded with Ukrainian businesspeople.

Twitter prohibited anyone from tweeting a link to the article or sending it through direct message after it was published, calling it “hacked material.” The Post’s account was likewise suspended by the firm for a number of days, barring additional tweets. Immediately after restricting the Biden story, Twitter revised its standards, announcing that it would label tweets to “provide context” instead of banning links.

Aftermath

Despite Musk’s assurance that the discoveries would prove to be a “bombshell,” Taibbi’s Twitter thread didn’t have the desired effect. The screenshots reveal how the firm opted to censor the narrative, but they don’t explain why that choice was made, which is the main cause of this.

The Twitter Files confirm several items that were already known to the public, such as who makes the important decisions related to the content at the corporation, but it fails to address concerns about the judgments and whether they were influenced or controlled by politics.

The discoveries have also drawn criticism for publicizing the email addresses and other private information of those involved in the process. Yoel Roth, who was one of the employees mentioned in the tweets, stated on social media that “publicly posting the names and identities of front-line employees involved in content moderation puts them in harm’s way and is a fundamentally unacceptable thing to do.”

The Twitter files are a lost opportunity thus far. In an effort to make amends with Twitter’s former executives, the platform’s new owner is highlighting isolated instances of debatable excesses and errors, which may be leading to more mistrust. However, there is a significant need for transparency regarding how platform moderation operates and how enforcement compares to policy.


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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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