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Where Does the State End and 'Industry' Begin? (Twitter Files 11 & 12)

By Thomas Neuburger

Two more Twitter Files have dropped, both by Matt Taibbi. They should be considered together, as a set. This piece contains links to each and offers brief descriptions.

Taibbi introduces these releases in his “Note from San Francisco”:

These next few pieces are the result of looking at two discrete data sets, one ranging from mid-2017 to early 2018, and the other spanning from roughly March 2020 through the present. In the first piece [TF 11] focused on that late 2017 period, you see how Washington politicians learned that Twitter could be trained quickly to cooperate and cede control over its moderation process through a combination of threatened legislation and bad press. In the second [TF 12], you see how the cycle of threats and bad media that first emerged in 2017 became institutionalized, to the point where a long list of government enforcement agencies essentially got to operate Twitter as an involuntary contractor, heading into the 2020 election.

Links to Twitter Files 11 & 12

To jump immediately to these Twitter Files, click the links below. Discussions of the other Twitter files can be found here, here and here.

• Twitters File 11 — How Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In Matt Taibbi, January 3, 2023

A differently titled version was also published at Taibbi’s Substack site.

30. “REPORTERS NOW KNOW THIS IS A MODEL THAT WORKS” This cycle – threatened legislation, wedded to scare headlines pushed by congressional/intel sources, followed by Twitter caving to moderation asks – would later be formalized in partnerships with federal law enforcement.

• Twitters File 12 Twitter and the FBI ‘Belly Button’ Matt Taibbi, January 3, 2023

A version was also published at Taibbi’s Substack site.

23. "BELLY BUTTON" “We can give you everything we’re seeing from the FBI and USIC agencies,” Chan explained, but the DHS agency CISA “will know what’s going on in each state.” He went on to ask if industry could “rely on the FBI to be the belly button of the USG [U.S. government]."

For aggregated links to all Twitter files, click here.

Twitter Files 11

Twitter Files 11 was titled “How Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In” when published on Twitter, and “Why Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In” when republished in essay form on Taibbi’s Substack site.

As Taibbi summarizes it, this set recaps “a furious fall of 2017 for Twitter, which began with threats of legislation and ended with the company surrendering control over content moderation.”

What’s notable is how the elements of the Democratic Party ecosystem seems to coordinate and amplify attack by Sen. Warner (D-VA), who, as one Twitter executive writes, is “taking cues from Hillary Clinton.”

For example, here’s Politico:

And here’s a supposedly academic think tank at Johns Hopkins:

To all of which pressure, Twitter caved:

The above, of course, is damning. Take a moment to fully understand what it says.

Twitter Files 12

Twitter Files 12, “Twitter and the FBI ‘Belly Button’”, picks up exactly where TF 11 leaves off:

The Global Engagement Center is a Hillary Clinton-era creation within the State Department to give them their own presence in the foreign intelligence arena:

There’s also a reference to “Blaming Bill Gates” in the lists of sins that the GEC thinsk should get a Twitter user banned. Is there any question the government is a domestic propaganda operation at this point? The floodgates to capricious “moderation” have been opened wide.

The highlighted comment in this document from Yoel Roth is telling. Note that the attack he's responding to comes from another academic think tank, this time at Clemson.

Asking if there’s any information they could provide to “help us make those links” seems uncomfortably close to looking for non-existent votes in Georgia, but maybe that’s just me.

One further note about the State Department’s GEC — at this point in its life, it’s being led by the Trump administration.

By October, the number of requests from all over the place — “Treasury, the NSA, virtually every state, the HHS, from the FBI and DHS” — was overwhelming. The value of the requests ranged from help with help with what were described as foreign ransomware actors, to requests to ban a journalist at the request of Adam Schiff, Democratic Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Note that the Committee wanted to ban searches related to its staff members as well.

Though Twitter declined these requests, it honored almost all of the others.

The rest of the thread details the overwhelming amount of work that Twitter was asked to do, and from every direction. It’s a stunning (and not difficult) read. A “master-canine” relationship indeed.

Taibbi ends by noting that even though Twitter was paid almost $3.5 million for what was essentially contract labor, “they were underpaid.”

Finally, If you read these through, and I hope you do, pay attention how often the word “partner” is used.

FBI refers to its “industry partners” in their communication to Twitter — meaning, I believe, social media companies in general — and Twitter executives frequently and casually refer to “our partners at the FBI.”

So where does the state end and “industry” begin? I'm not sure I can tell you.

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