By Sister Toldjah
As we previously reported, the Usual Suspects in the mainstream media launched into an epic freakout in the aftermath of Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s release of the first series of Twitter Files last Friday to independent journalist Matt Taibbi.
The files shined a brighter spotlight on what went on behind the scenes related to Twitter’s deliberate and coordinated suppression of the New York Post’s blockbuster Hunter Biden laptop story (and their locking of the Post’s Twitter account) in October 2020, just a few weeks before the presidential election.
While the reasons for the MSM alternately downplaying the story, suggesting it’s “dangerous” that Musk released the info, and trying to paint Taibbi as a Musk stooge at the same time seem pretty obvious, they have of course denied that there is anything partisan behind their reactions to the story, simply suggesting in so many words that they are responding “in principle” to Musk’s actions.
The real explanation, however, was inadvertently discovered in Media World by New York Times media reporter Michael Grynbaum, who noted that Taibbi fell out of favor with Democrats and the media after he questioned the Trump/Russia collusion narrative. Because of that, anything he’s said or done after that has been met with disdain from the establishment types in the press:
The central role of Mr. Taibbi, a polarizing figure in journalism circles, set off its own uproar.
Once a major voice of the political left, Mr. Taibbi rose to prominence by presenting himself as an unencumbered truth teller. He is perhaps best known for labeling Goldman Sachs a “vampire squid” in an article that galvanized public outrage toward Wall Street. But his commentary about former President Donald J. Trump diverged from the views of many Democrats — for instance, he was skeptical of claims of collusion between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign — and his fan base shifted.
And that says it all, remarked Aaron Maté, a fellow independent journalist and an occasional co-host of Taibbi’s “Useful Idiots” podcasts:
NYT's @grynbaum on what's behind the media "uproar" over @mtaibbi: he has "diverged from the views of many Democrats", e.g. by being "skeptical of claims of [Trump-Russia] collusion."
Correct: in "journalism circles", you may not diverge from Democrats' top conspiracy theory. pic.twitter.com/IBgiVyCTpi
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) December 5, 2022
I remember once upon a time when we were told that criticizing a reporter was a very dangerous, undemocratic thing to do, whether you were a politician or just an average news reader who was sick and tired of the media spoonfeeding you their opinions rather than giving you all the relevant info in order for you to make your own informed decisions about what to think.
Thus confirming that Democrats don’t want the truth, they want reinforcement of their bias and prejudices. They aren’t fans of the truth, they are fans of propaganda and hate.
THREAD: THE TWITTER FILES PART TWO.
TWITTER’S SECRET BLACKLISTS.
1. A new #TwitterFiles investigation reveals that teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users.
2. Twitter once had a mission “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” Along the way, barriers nevertheless were erected.
3. Take, for example, Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (@DrJBhattacharya) who argued that Covid lockdowns would harm children. Twitter secretly placed him on a “Trends Blacklist,” which prevented his tweets from trending.
4. Or consider the popular right-wing talk show host, Dan Bongino (@dbongino), who at one point was slapped with a “Search Blacklist.”
5. Twitter set the account of conservative activist Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) to “Do Not Amplify.”
6. Twitter denied that it does such things. In 2018, Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde (then Head of Legal Policy and Trust) and Kayvon Beykpour (Head of Product) said: “We do not shadow ban.” They added: “And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
7. What many people call “shadow banning,” Twitter executives and employees call “Visibility Filtering” or “VF.” Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning.
8. “Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool,” one senior Twitter employee told us.
9. “VF” refers to Twitter’s control over user visibility. It used VF to block searches of individual users; to limit the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability; to block select users’ posts from ever appearing on the “trending” page; and from inclusion in hashtag searches.
10. All without users’ knowledge.
11. “We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do,” one Twitter engineer told us. Two additional Twitter employees confirmed.
12. The group that decided whether to limit the reach of certain users was the Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, or SRT-GET. It often handled up to 200 “cases” a day.
13. But there existed a level beyond official ticketing, beyond the rank-and-file moderators following the company’s policy on paper. That is the “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support,” known as “SIP-PES.”
14. This secret group included Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust (Vijaya Gadde), the Global Head of Trust & Safety (Yoel Roth), subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, and others.
15. This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made. “Think high follower account, controversial,” another Twitter employee told us. For these “there would be no ticket or anything.”
16. One of the accounts that rose to this level of scrutiny was @libsoftiktok—an account that was on the “Trends Blacklist” and was designated as “Do Not Take Action on User Without Consulting With SIP-PES.”
17. The account—which Chaya Raichik began in November 2020 and now boasts over 1.4 million followers—was subjected to six suspensions in 2022 alone, Raichik says. Each time, Raichik was blocked from posting for as long as a week.
18. Twitter repeatedly informed Raichik that she had been suspended for violating Twitter’s policy against “hateful conduct.”
19. But in an internal SIP-PES memo from October 2022, after her seventh suspension, the committee acknowledged that “LTT has not directly engaged in behavior violative of the Hateful Conduct policy.” See here:
20. The committee justified her suspensions internally by claiming her posts encouraged online harassment of “hospitals and medical providers” by insinuating “that gender-affirming healthcare is equivalent to child abuse or grooming.”
21. Compare this to what happened when Raichik herself was doxxed on November 21, 2022. A photo of her home with her address was posted in a tweet that has garnered more than 10,000 likes.
22. When Raichik told Twitter that her address had been disseminated she says Twitter Support responded with this message: “We reviewed the reported content, and didn’t find it to be in violation of the Twitter rules.” No action was taken. The doxxing tweet is still up.
23. In internal Slack messages, Twitter employees spoke of using technicalities to restrict the visibility of tweets and subjects. Here’s Yoel Roth, Twitter’s then Global Head of Trust & Safety, in a direct message to a colleague in early 2021:
24. Six days later, in a direct message with an employee on the Health, Misinformation, Privacy, and Identity research team, Roth requested more research to support expanding “non-removal policy interventions like disabling engagements and deamplification/visibility filtering.”
25. Roth wrote: “The hypothesis underlying much of what we’ve implemented is that if exposure to, e.g., misinformation directly causes harm, we should use remediations that reduce exposure, and limiting the spread/virality of content is a good way to do that.”
26. He added: “We got Jack on board with implementing this for civic integrity in the near term, but we’re going to need to make a more robust case to get this into our repertoire of policy remediations – especially for other policy domains.”
27. There is more to come on this story, which was reported by @AbigailShrier @ShellenbergerMD @NellieBowles @IsaacGrafstein and the team The Free Press @TheFP.
Keep up with this unfolding story here and at our brand new website: thefp.com.
28. The authors have broad and expanding access to Twitter’s files. The only condition we agreed to was that the material would first be published on Twitter.
29. We’re just getting started on our reporting. Documents cannot tell the whole story here. A big thank you to everyone who has spoken to us so far. If you are a current or former Twitter employee, we’d love to hear from you. Please write to: email@example.com
30. Watch @mtaibbi for the next installment.