News, Culture & Society

Twitter files show staffers pushing ban on Trump based on ‘historical context’

Newly released internal documents suggest that Twitter’s former head of safety Yoel Roth was meeting weekly with the FBI, and show instances of the FBI flagging tweets related to the 2020 election for deletion.  

Journalist Matt Taibbi shared the claims in a new Twitter thread on Friday night, one week after sharing the first tranche of so-called ‘Twitter Files’ turned over by the company’s new owner Elon Musk.

The new thread covered the months and weeks leading up to then-President Donald Trump’s ban from Twitter following the Capitol riot, shedding light on the increasingly frenzied internal efforts within the social media site to moderate his baseless claims of election fraud.

Some of the most intriguing documents related to the apparent cozy relationship between top Twitter executives and the FBI, though Taibbi did not reveal any direct evidence of the agency’s intervention in the decision to ban Trump. 

In an undated chat on the messaging app Slack that Taibbi says took place after the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, Roth is seen joking about a mysterious meeting on his calendar, saying it is ‘DEFINITELY not a meeting with the FBI I SWEAR’.

Newly released internal documents suggest that Twitter’s former head of safety Yoel Roth was meeting weekly with the FBI, and show instances of the FBI flagging tweets for deletion

One exchange shows Roth explaining he will miss 'the FBI and DHS meetings.'

Roth is seen joking about a mysterious meeting on his calendar, saying it is 'DEFINITELY not a meeting with the FBI I SWEAR’

One exchange (left) shows Roth explaining he will miss ‘the FBI and DHS meetings.’ Roth is also seen joking (right) about a mysterious meeting on his calendar, saying it is ‘DEFINITELY not a meeting with the FBI I SWEAR’

One message, apparently from October 2020 following Twitter's two-day ban on a story about Hunter Biden's business dealings, mentions a 'weekly sync with FBI/DHS/DNI'

One message, apparently from October 2020 following Twitter’s two-day ban on a story about Hunter Biden’s business dealings, mentions a ‘weekly sync with FBI/DHS/DNI’

Other messages show Roth mentioning a ‘weekly sync with FBI/DHS/DNI’ regarding election security in October 2020.

Roth, who quit his role at Twitter last month following Musk’s takeover, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Friday evening. 

A separate message mentions ‘a report from the FBI concerning 2 tweets,’ which appeared to relate to claims about ballot fraud in the November 2020 election.

The message notes that one of the tweets, claiming mail-in ballots were being ‘shredded’, was adjudicated false, but that the second one claiming up to 25 percent of mail-in ballots were being ‘rejected for errors’ was found to be within Twitter policy.   

Taibbi said the new release of files was part of a three-part series about the events surrounding Trump’s January 2021 ban from Twitter, which Musk lifted last month after buying the company. 

One message mentions 'a report from the FBI concerning 2 tweets,' which appeared to relate to false claims about ballot fraud in the November 2020 election

One message mentions ‘a report from the FBI concerning 2 tweets,’ which appeared to relate to false claims about ballot fraud in the November 2020 election

The FBI allegedly reported this tweet by a former local elected official in Indiana, but Twitter apparently determined it was 'deemed no vio[lation] on numerous occaisions'

The FBI allegedly reported this tweet by a former local elected official in Indiana, but Twitter apparently determined it was ‘deemed no vio[lation] on numerous occaisions’

Prior to the ban, days after the Capitol riot, the internal document also show staffers at the company argued that ‘historical context’ and ‘current climate’ should factor into the decision. 

One message from an unidentified Twitter staffer appears to acknowledge the historic nature of the ban, asking: ‘Is this the first head of state ever to be suspended?’  

‘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,’ Taibbi wrote.

‘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,’ he promised.

The documents released Friday primarily related to the months prior to the January 8, 2021 decision to ban Donald Trump from Twitter. Trump is seen on January 6 prior to the Capitol riot

The documents released Friday primarily related to the months prior to the January 8, 2021 decision to ban Donald Trump from Twitter. Trump is seen on January 6 prior to the Capitol riot 

Staffers at Twitter argued that 'historical context' and 'current climate' should factor into the decision to suspend Trump's account ahead of his January 8, 2021 ban

Staffers at Twitter argued that ‘historical context’ and ‘current climate’ should factor into the decision to suspend Trump’s account ahead of his January 8, 2021 ban

One screenshot showed a Twitter staffer acknowledging the historic nature of Trump's ban

One screenshot showed a Twitter staffer acknowledging the historic nature of Trump’s ban

Taibbi said that on October 8th, 2020, Twitter executives created a Slack chatroom devoted to high-profile moderation actions related to the election, which was then a month away.

He describes this group as a ‘a smaller, more powerful cadre of senior policy execs’ that included Roth and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former head of legal, policy, and trust.

Taibbi claimed the group operated as ‘a high-speed Supreme Court of moderation, issuing content rulings on the fly, often in minutes and based on guesses, gut calls, even Google searches, even in cases involving the President.’ 

Screenshots show the group debating what to do about Trump’s frequent attacks on absentee voting procedures in the lead-up to the election.

One in the group exchange also hints at a broader role of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in Twitter’s approach to moderating misinformation.

An unidentified staffer is seen asking whether Twitter should publicly describe its approach to misinformation as relying on machine learning, human review, and ‘partnerships with outside experts’.

Nick Pickles, Twitter's senior director of global public policy strategy, development and partnerships, refers to partnerships with the FBI/DHS in one exchange

Nick Pickles, Twitter’s senior director of global public policy strategy, development and partnerships, refers to partnerships with the FBI/DHS in one exchange

Nick Pickles, Twitter’s senior director of global public policy strategy, development and partnerships, is seen responding: ‘can we just say “partnerships”‘.

He then adds: ‘not sure we’d describe the FBI/DHS as experts, or some NGOs that aren’t academic.’ 

Taibbi said that his posts on Friday would primarily cover the period between the 2020 election and January 6, to be followed by additional publications of internal Twitter documents by Michael Shellenberger on Saturday and Bari Weiss on Sunday. 

Shellenberger is an author who focuses on contrarian views on climate change, and Weiss is an independent journalist who runs the Substack newsletter Common Sense, which she recently rebranded as The Free Press.

Earlier on Friday, responding to prior releases of internal Twitter files, the White House again insisted President Joe Biden had no involvement in Twitter’s decisions to censor conservative voices or suppress stories on his son’s laptop prior to his election.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also denied that the administration had any direct contact with former FBI agent and Twitter general counsel Jim Baker over the moderation of stories.

Earlier this week Musk fired Baker, who was serving as a top Twitter lawyer, over his ‘possible’ role in suppressing the Hunter Biden story in October 2020.

During her daily briefing Friday press secretary Jean-Pierre was asked whether the Biden team had made any contact with Baker regarding content moderation decisions.

‘It’s up to private companies to make these types of decisions. We were not involved, I can say that we were not involved,’ she said.

Earlier this week Jean-Pierre said it is ‘not healthy’ for Twitter to be releasing internal communications that showed Twitter suppressed the bombshell laptop reporting that showed Hunter Biden trading on his last name for cash.

It follows the release of two Twitter files over the last two weeks, including revelations published by Weiss on Wednesday night that executives suppressed conservative accounts even if they didn’t violate policy and certain trending topics.

The first set of Twitter Files, dropped in a thread on the social media platform by Taibbi, showed that the Biden campaign did ask Twitter to remove some nude photos and videos Hunter had left on his laptop that were being circulated.

Internal communications indicate the Biden campaign had requested Twitter remove the post that violated its non-consensual nudity policy which prohibits ‘images or videos that are taken in an intimate setting and not intended for public distribution.’ 

The Trump White House had also contacted Twitter asking to have the company review or remove some tweets, Taibbi claimed without offering additional details. 



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