The Twitter Files and the National Security State
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
By Thomas Neuburger
"If you build a gun, anyone can use it." —Yours truly
In the image above, taken from an internal Twitter Slack channel, a top executive admits to regular meetings with the FBI and DHS. Does that give you pause?
I want to wade into the Twitter Files a bit — their contents, not the controversy. But I want to do it carefully since (trigger warning), discussion is triggering people.
That may be justified. Musk may indeed be a “far-right activist,” as the Atlantic recently claimed. And the Republican Party may on Hitler's road to a permanent one-party state, one in which they’ll never lose an election, and the worst of their people, like the new-minted Handmaid Justice, write all the rules.
But the intersection between the American security state — agencies like FBI and DHS, allied private firms like Dataminr, and global monopoly platforms like Twitter and Facebook — should be examined.
You might be glad, for example, that the FBI polices speech (not yet a crime, except in very clear cases), and that someone like Donald Trump is thus deplatformed? You might applaud. You might also be right on the merits.
But imagine that aggregate power — the state, the agencies, the firms, the monopolies — in less friendly hands. If you build a gun, anyone can use it.
The Twitter Files To Date
With that preamble, I want to link to The Twitter Files to date. There are five in all, plus a supplemental comment. Each is archived at the Thread Reader App website as a single page.
Feel free to read or ignore. But whatever you believe, or come to believe, at least you can access the source.
Thread: Twitter Files 1
Matt Taibbi, December 2, 2022
What you’re about to read is the first installment in a series, based upon thousands of internal documents obtained by sources at Twitter.
The “Twitter Files” tell an incredible story from inside one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms. It is a Frankensteinian tale of a human-built mechanism grown out the control of its designer. [...]
Twitter Files 1a — Supplemental
Matt Taibbi, December 6, 2022
On Friday, the first installment of the Twitter files was published here. We expected to publish more over the weekend. Many wondered why there was a delay.
We can now tell you part of the reason why. [...]
Twitter Files 2 — Twitter's Secret Blacklists
Bari Weiss, December 9, 2022
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. [...]
Personal note: This one was fascinating, way too short, and focused, unfortunately, on rightwing figures only.
Twitter Files 3 — The Removal of Donald Trump: October 2020-January 6th
Matt Taibbi, December 9, 2022
The world knows much of the story of what happened between riots at the Capitol on January 6th, and the removal of President Donald Trump from Twitter on January 8th...
We’ll show you what hasn’t been revealed: the erosion of standards within the company in months before J6, decisions by high-ranking executives to violate their own policies, and more, against the backdrop of ongoing, documented interaction with federal agencies.
This first installment covers the period before the election through January 6th. Tomorrow, @ShellenbergerMD will detail the chaos inside Twitter on January 7th. On Sunday, @bariweiss will reveal the secret internal communications from the key date of January 8th.
Whatever your opinion on the decision to remove Trump that day, the internal communications at Twitter between January 6th-January 8th have clear historical import. Even Twitter’s employees understood in the moment it was a landmark moment in the annals of speech. [...]
Twitter Files 4 — The Removal of Donald Trump: January 7
Michael Shellenberger, December 10, 2022
For years, Twitter had resisted calls to ban Trump. “Blocking a world leader from Twitter,” it wrote in 2018, “would hide important info... [and] hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.” [...]
Twitter Files 5 — The Removal of Trump from Twitter
Bari Weiss, December 12, 2022
On the morning of January 8, President Donald Trump, with one remaining strike before being at risk of permanent suspension from Twitter, tweets twice. [...]
There will be more released. When they accumulate, I'll extend this list.
I want to offer two more resources, both for context and to provide new information.
The first is a free segment from a longer talk between Matt Taibbi and Walter Kirn, where Kirn interviews Taibbi about the meaning of the files. Some of what’s not been released is discussed here.
You can find the subscriber-only segment by clicking here.
The second is a discussion on Breaking Points in which the hosts consider both the political and security state implications of these releases.
A Personal Note
I hope the mechanisms of Twitter deamplification (detailed in the Twitter Files 2 above) are more fully explained. I have a personal reason for being interested — the history of my own Twitter feed. I won’t go into detail, but in short, something drastically changed in the way my feed "behaved" from before the 2016 Convention to after it.
Was the market for tweets that different? My stance hadn't changed — I was no Trumpist then and I'm not one now. Or did Twitter throw a blanket over the account in an early example of what we're discovering now?
I’d love to see the flags on the internal “Gaius” account. Would they also say “Do not amplify” as this man’s does?
And if it does, when was that flag applied?
I’ll never know, of course. Mere citizens rarely have access to their secret files, especially when they're privately held. Even Uber concealed this information until early this year.