In an email dated October 24, just days before the 2020 presidential election, the "Biden team" reportedly demanded that Twitter scrub information critical of Hunter Biden from the site, according to a jaw dropping release of "The Twitter Files" by new CEO Elon Musk.
Twitter staff forwarded a request from what seemed to be the Biden campaign to delete five tweets in particular.
"More to review from the Biden team," the message, from the first installment of the documents analyzed by journalist Matt Taibbi, read. "Handled," was the reply.
Three of the tweets, from since-suspended accounts, featured scandalous graphic images of the president's son posing with his genitalia exposed, according to archives, which were leaked from the laptop that the New York Post first uncovered. In one image, Hunter Biden's nudity is blotted out by red digital paint.
Also on October 24, the Democratic National Committee requested two tweets related to Hunter Biden be removed. One, from James Wood, was a parody Biden presidential ad displaying his son smoking what appears to be a crack pipe.
Hunter Biden abandoned the computer at a Delaware repair shop in April 2019. It contained messages showing that then-vice president Joe Biden was introduced by his son to a top businessman at a Ukrainian energy firm "less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company," the Post wrote in October 2020. The correspondence contradicted Biden's claim that he had "never spoken" to Hunter Biden "about his overseas business dealings."
The internal documents screened by Taibbi show how Twitter gradually expanded its content-moderation regime to include obliging ad hoc requests from executives and political operatives from the Biden and Trump teams to delete content they deemed objectionable.
There was also great internal confusion and disorganization among Twitter management over the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop bombshell back in October 2020. Twitter staff and leadership were caught in what appeared to be a tug-of-war over formulating the public justification to remove the New York Post's exposé of the contents of the laptop.
The decision to stifle access to the report, including by blocking the posting of URLs to it, was made by top leadership of the company but without the knowledge of former CEO Jack Dorsey, according to Taibbi. Former head of legal, policy, and trust Vijaya Gadde was allegedly intimately involved.
"They just freelanced it," a former Twitter employee reportedly told Taibbi of Twitter's justification for censoring the scoop. "Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn't going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it."
Chaos ensued at Twitter as the move to suppress the story came under intense scrutiny. In an email addressed to Gadde and former trust and safety chief Yoel Roth, who led the team that suppressed the story, Trenton Kennedy, former U.S. policy communications manager at Twitter, expressed befuddlement over the company's public communications characterizing the story as dangerous for viewers.
"I'm struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this unsafe, and I think the best explainability argument for this externally would be that we're waiting to understand if this story is the result of hacked materials," Kennedy wrote to senior staff. "We'll face hard questions on this if we don't have some kind of solid reasoning for marking the link unsafe."
An analyst from Twitter's global escalations team confirmed that initially, the story was scrapped on the grounds that it violated the company's "hacked materials" policy.
Twitter took dramatic measures to thwart circulation of the story, removing links and warning that it could be "unsafe." In an email Taibbi reviewed, Trump campaign staffer Mike Hahn demanded to know why Twitter was so adamant about silencing firsthand reporting and when Kayleigh McEnany, who was deplatformed for citing the story, would be reinstated.
"I also don't [appreciate] how nobody on this team called me regarding the news that you'll be censoring news articles," Hahn wrote. "At least pretend to care for the next 20 days."
Musk had teased his 2020 document dump last week when he responded to a tweet by Alex Lorusso, an executive producer at Newsmax, asking him to publicize Twitter's internal discussions surrounding the company's decision to censor Hunter Biden's laptop in the leadup to the 2020 presidential election.
"Raise your hand if you think @ElonMusk should make public all internal discussions about the decision to censor the @NYPost's story on Hunter Biden's laptop before the 2020 Election in the interest of Transparency," Lorusso tweeted at the time.
Musk responded: "This is necessary to restore public trust."
Many have long criticized Twitter for censoring conservative voices, and Musk's latest announcement could shed light on the internal sequence of events contributing to the story's censoring, considered by many to be one of the biggest of the 2020 election cycle.
Since Musk assumed control of the social-media platform in late October, he has brought in numerous reforms including cleaning house, testing a new verification system, and reinstating users who were banned under Twitter's old leadership.
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