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Is the FBI stopping journalists from reporting on the Twitter Files?

For the better part of the last three years, we have come to realize the impact of former American president Donald Trump and the former administration’s hold on social media. The lasting legacy of the former president is fast becoming one of corruption of higher orders, with his fiery social media presence reshaping the way people consume information online. 

However, it has become equally clear that his corruption may have infiltrated the ranks of the platform behind his greatest weapon, Twitter. As FBI scare tactics directed toward Twitter become a question of “how much” instead of just “if”, the Twitter files are set to cause news firestorms for quite some time. 

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Twitter policy

Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” the policy states. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

The policy continues to state that it reviews Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforces the rules accordingly. “No one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth, or influences these decisions. We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind.” it concluded.

Early warnings

It’s worth mentioning that the reason why talk of the FBI suppressing Twitter file leaks persists is that during the last administration, the President actively used whatever powers he could to suppress unsavory or opposing information that went counter to his rhetoric. As a result, the FBI took on an effectively Republican aura in its actions both public and private. 

Twitter employees took notice quicker than reported. “This might be an unpopular opinion but one off ad hoc decisions like this that don’t appear rooted in policy are imho a slippery slope…,” said one lower-level employee. “This now appears to be a fiat by an online platform CEO with a global presence that can gatekeep speech for the entire world…”

As far as anyone could tell in the world of Donald Trump, that was exactly the idea and goal. As a result, it’s anyone’s guess what the FBI said yes and no to with these variables in play.

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Left leanings

Now, it appears that the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction of the aisle, as it apparently was during the Obama administration. As a result, Twitter has made far bolder moves in directing the conversation users have on its platform. According to the Twitter files, this is because the company has largely leaned Democratic from the start.

Matt Taibbi reports, “This system wasn’t balanced. It was based on contacts. Because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, there were more channels, more ways to complain, open to the left (well, Democrats) than the right.”

Fellow reporter Michael Shellenberger added, “As context, it’s important to understand that Twitter’s staff & senior execs were overwhelmingly progressive. In 2018, 2020, and 2022, 96%, 98%, & 99% of Twitter staff’s political donations went to Democrats.”

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Scare tactics

Depending on how Twitter responded to his incendiary tweets, it is likely that Trump found ways to get the FBI to threaten the social media company into letting his rhetoric go unfiltered. This tactic for preferential treatment was in full awareness of what has now been revealed as shadow banning. 

Indeed, reporter Shellenberger pointed out in the Twitter files the use of specific bots to catch unfavorable behavior. “Twitter employees use the term “one off” frequently in their Slack discussions. Its frequent use reveals significant employee discretion over when and whether to apply warning labels on tweets and “strikes” on users. Here are typical examples.”

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The future

While it’s anyone’s guess what the implications will be for the struggling platform, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk shows no sign of slowing down. With a skeleton crew of people who will do exactly as he says, Musk is showing clear signs of buyer’s remorse. It appears that Trump ultimately got what he wanted in taking the platform down with him once it refused to bend to his will. 

How far do you think Trump got the FBI to pressure Twitter into following his orders? Do you think Elon Musk will be able to bring the platform back to its former glory? Let us know in the comments!

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