The lead investigative journalist assisting Elon Musk in releasing the “Twitter Files,” Matt Taibbi, has claimed that the work has led him to conclude that the government was “in the censorship business.”
Taibbi released the first of Musk’s Twitter Files and continues to be one of the reporters given the most access by the company’s new CEO to previously private communications, documents, and correspondence from within the social media giant.
He appeared on Tucker Carlson for an interview recently and shared his conclusions and perspective on his review of the materials.
“I think we can say pretty conclusively, after looking at tens of thousands of emails over the course of these weeks, that the government was in the censorship business in a huge way,” Taibbi remarked. “That’s, I think, provable now.”
“And not just one agency,” he continued. “Really every conceivable wing of the enforcement agencies of the U.S. government were in some way or another sending moderation requests to Twitter, and in many cases, those requests were being fulfilled.”
Taibbi named the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Security Agency as agencies that all sent moderation requests to Twitter.
But the requests were not just sent by representatives of the federal government; they were sent by U.S. state and local governments as well.
“We have reports from all over, from states, from police departments — everywhere,” Taibbi added.
The power that the government — specifically the intelligence agencies — wielded over the content on Twitter was significant, according to the reporter, who was once a contributing editor for Rolling Stone.
More troubling to Taibbi was the disconnect between Twitter’s public posture on removing content and censorship and their alleged conduct behind closed doors.
“They had an internal guidance, which I think is very significant; where they said publicly, we will only remove content at our sole discretion,” he explained.
“Privately, we will remove any content that’s identified by the United States intelligence community as a foreign state actor conducting cyber operations; so, if the intel community says we should take it down, we’re going to take it down.”
Carlson remarked that many of the accounts that government officials requested be suspended or banned from Twitter were not foreign actors at all but included many domestic journalists.
He then asked Taibbi if First Amendment advocacy groups or free speech advocacy groups had weighed in on his investigative work into censorship at Twitter.
Taibbi said that he was not aware of any.
“I gave to the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] for years. I’m one of those dyed-in-the-wool liberals and grew up that way,” he recalled.
“I’m deeply disappointed. I think a lot of people who are sort of politically on that side of the aisle are missing the boat on this. They don’t understand the gravity of the situation. They’re thinking about this in partisan terms.”
He asserted, “It’s not a partisan story. This is a story about the architecture of the intelligence community and law enforcement getting its hands on speech and on the ability for people to communicate with one another through platforms like Twitter and Facebook.”
Many of the federal agencies named by Taibbi have not formally responded to the reporter’s claims; however, the FBI has consistently argued that they did not force Twitter to do anything.
“We are providing [information and requests] so that [Twitter] can take whatever action they deem appropriate under their terms of service to protect their platform and protect their customers, but we never direct or ask them to take action,” on specific tweets, the FBI officials recently claimed.