Holden Caulfield quipped, “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life.” But Twitter has him beat by a country mile.
Twitter executives long insisted they never rigged their platform to censor conservatives. It was a lie. Former CEO Jack Dorsey was asked point-blank under oath by Congress if his social media company “shadow-banned prominent Republicans.” “No,” he replied with a straight face. Another lie. He doubled-down when he told Sean Hannity, “We do not shadow-ban according to political ideology or viewpoints.” Not even close to the truth.
In fact, Twitter was operating a giant political censorship machine applied with brute computer force. Tweets involving Democrats were amplified, derogatory information about Joe Biden was suppressed, and anyone who dared to criticize them found themselves diminished or vanished.
Twitter didn’t like the pejorative term “shadow-ban,” so it invented a synonymous in-house phrase. Staffers called it “visibility filtering.” Same thing, different jargon. They even composed a Blacklist. If you were on it, bye-bye.
Now, thanks to the transparency of the company’s new owner, Elon Musk, the so-called Twitter Files have laid bare the cavalcade of lies and devious machinations that we all suspected were happening behind closed doors.
A super-censor team composed of Dorsey, Vijaya Gadde (head of Legal, Policy and Trust), Yoel Roth (global head of Trust and Safety), and Parag Agrawal (also CEO) made many of the key decisions to kill legitimate stories and banish people whose views they didn’t like.
If you offered information or opinion with which the progressive elites at Twitter disagreed or objected, your tweets would magically disappear into a cyber black hole. Your followers would strangely dwindle. Any ideas and thoughts that didn’t conform strictly to Twitter’s woke orthodoxy of ideological purity were censored.
Twitter wasn’t practicing responsible content moderation, as they publicly claimed. No, they were unscrupulously enforcing a system of content oblivion. These are despicable people who have earned our contempt.
Pre-Elon Musk, Twitter contributed mightily to the alarming erosion of free speech in America. Over time, it became a sad monument to narrow-minded intolerance. Imperious executives were morally bankrupt and intellectually corrupt. They robbed people of the chance for speech they might wish to hear or to engage in vigorous public debate. It was antithetical to the principles of free expression. This unbridled power allowed Twitter to punish political adversaries and protect partisan allies. It did so with mendacious impunity and little regard for the public interest.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with the slow drip of the Twitter Files’ release, here is a handy cheat sheet of the ugly details exposed thus far:
Twitter Files — Part One: The platform censored the Hunter Biden laptop story in advance of the 2020 presidential election by claiming publicly that it violated their “hacked” policy, knowing full well that the laptop wasn’t hacked at all. They pretended it might be Russian disinformation, even though that excuse was nothing more than U.S. intelligence disinformation. Twitter took its marching orders from the Biden campaign team, Democratic operatives, and the FBI which was running a Biden protection racket.
Twitter Files — Part Two: The aforementioned secret Blacklist was composed to target vocal conservatives and critics of Biden. Disfavored tweets were prevented from trending, and accounts were suspended based on phony grounds. Shadow-banning evolved into a powerful political weapon that was arbitrarily and capriciously deployed for partisan gain. A Stanford doctor, for example, who warned that COVID lockdowns would harm children was blacklisted. His tweets were all but entombed.
Twitter Files — Part Three: Twitter execs moved to “deplatform” then-President Donald Trump from their social media site in January of 2021 despite no legitimate basis to do so. They previously slapped warning labels on his tweets that were purely pretextual. Internal Slack conversations show that Twitter coordinated with federal agencies, including the FBI, DHS, and DNI (Director of National Intelligence). Messages confirm that the bureau knew in advance that the damning Hunter Biden laptop story would emerge and preemptively pressured Twitter to censor it by falsely calling it Russian disinformation.
Twitter Files — Part Four: Pressure built on January 7th to permanently ban Trump by conjuring up dubious justifications that apply exclusively to him and “distinct from other political leaders.” Slack messages among Twitter execs revealed no concern for free speech principles or democracy. Their intense campaign to banish Trump was led by Yoel Roth who made “progress,” in part, because Dorsey was AWOL in the South Pacific. Twitter’s ban defied its own standards that prohibits interpreting content or intent of a tweet. This prompted a junior employee to complain of “Twitter tyranny” but to no avail.
Twitter Files — Part Five: Citing the Capitol riot, Twitter staffers were in an uproar and pushed for Trump to be banned from the site even though the company found no policy violations in any of the president’s tweets. The platform’s employees deliberately misconstrued one of his tweets to suggest that he incited violence when the plain language showed he did not. To their credit, lower-level monitors involved in content review resisted. They see nothing wrong with Trump’s tweets. One wrote, “I think we’d have a hard time saying this is incitement.” Another messaged, “Don’t see the incitement angle here.” Still another warned that “censorship can destroy the public conversation.” Trump was banned anyway on January 8th.
Now, my analysis. There are two issues at stake here. They are often confused and conflated. First, it is a violation of the First Amendment for government at any level to censor speech either overtly or covertly. Thus, if the FBI manipulated or coerced a proxy such as Twitter to suppress what the agency knew to be a valid story and therefore protected speech, then the Constitution has been infringed or breached.
Second, at the time of the censored laptop story Twitter was a publicly held company, which is now privately owned. It was not, and never has been, a government agency. Private enterprises are not constrained by the strict construction of the First Amendment. Nor was the Biden presidential campaign a government entity when it maneuvered to get Twitter to crush the damaging story and the laptop’s incriminating contents. Both were free to censor without legal consequence.
The moral obligations pose a different concern. Twitter’s actions violate the principles of free speech long enshrined in the First Amendment. You might say that its spirit, precepts, and values were molested by unethical Twitter executives. This was the point made to the social media company by Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna when he cautioned that the platform’s suppression of the laptop story “seems a violation of the First Amendment principles.” He was right.
Our Founders cherished free speech in all its good and imperfect forms. Robust debate —even vitriolic disputes or noxious arguments— are the sustenance of democracy and essential to the security of our Republic. It is how constructive change evolves. The airing of grievances lends itself to fitting solutions. The Framers well knew from their own experiences with the British that repressed speech breeds resentment. It is a menace that jeopardizes a stable government. Thus, the best remedy for harmful speech is “more speech, not enforced silence,” as the late Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote.
This is something that the progressive crowd at Twitter can never comprehend. Emboldened by the power they hold and blinded by their liberal bias and political zealousness, they chose to suffocate free expression to advance their own personal interests. In so doing, they laid waste to the valued principles underlying the First Amendment.
Moreover, Twitter ignored its stated promise that the platform would be an open forum for the unfettered exchange of ideas, information, and opinion. Instead, executives there callously chose to smother content they didn’t like and expel the users they disdained. Rather than upholding the values of free speech, they misused their site as a punitive political weapon.
Thankfully, the offenders have been sacked. In their self-righteousness, they have offered no remorse.
**Clarification: In this podcast Carl Szabo references Elon Musk “turning around SolarWinds.” This is a mistaken reference to SolarCity, a company acquired by Tesla. We apologize for any confusion.**