Twitter kept a ‘secret blacklist’ of topics and accounts to prevent them from trending, according to data obtained by journalist Bari Weiss – with up to 200 ‘cases’ being dealt with a day by a special division within the company.
Conservative commentators such as Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk were deliberately put on a ‘search blacklist’ – in the case of Bongino – or tabbed ‘do not amplify’, in the case of Kirk.
Those who questioned the prevailing COVID orthodoxy of lockdowns and mask mandates, such as Stanford’s Dr Jay Bhattacharya, who argued that lockdowns harmed children, were also placed on a ‘search blacklist’.
In October 2020, journalist Dave Rubin asked then-CEO Jack Dorsey: ‘Do you shadowban based on political beliefs? Simple yes or no will do.’
Dorsey replied: ‘No.’
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy, and trust, also denied that Twitter operated such blacklists.
‘We do not shadow ban,’ she said in 2018, according to Weiss – speaking alongside Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s head of product.
They added: ‘And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.’
Weiss made the revelations on Thursday in the second tranche of what has been termed The Twitter Files.
Elon Musk, who bought Twitter in October for $44 billion, was gleeful about the revelations regarding the company he now owns – retweeting Weiss’ thread, with a popcorn emoji.
Conservative commentators Dan Bongino (left) and Charlie Kirk (right) were censored by Twitter, according to Bari Weiss
Dr Jay Bhattacharya, who argued that COVID lockdowns harmed children, was also placed on a ‘search blacklist’ by Twitter, according to Weiss
Within Twitter, the practice was termed ‘visibility filtering’, Weiss reported.
‘Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool,’ one senior Twitter employee told her.
Twitter would block searches of individual users, make a specific tweet less easy to find, block posts from the ‘trending’ page, and remove them from hashtag searches.
Another source, a Twitter engineer, told Weiss: ‘We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do.’
Weiss said that the matter was dealt with by Twitter’s Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, known as SRT-GET – a group that handled 200 cases a day.
A higher-level team, known as SIP-PES, ‘Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support,’ dealt with more complex and high-profile cases.
Dorsey and his replacement as CEO, Parag Agrawal, sat on the group, as did Gadde and Yoel Roth, the global head of trust and safety.
The group would need to intervene if any action was taken to limit the popular account @LibsofTiktok – whose account was tabbed internally: ‘Do Not Take Action on User Without Consulting With SIP-PES.’
CEO Parag Agrawal (left) and head of legal policy Vijaya Gadde (right) were both fired by Musk as soon as he took control of the company. It now emerges they were involved in ‘shadow bans’ of accounts
Weiss said that account was suspended six times in 2022, and the author, Chaya Raichik, blocked from her account for at least a week each time.
Her account was suspended, they told Raichik, due to violations of Twitter’s ‘hateful conduct’ policy – but internally, Twitter admitted there was no violation.
In an October 2022 memo from SIP-PES obtained by Weiss, the committee concluded that the account ‘has not directly engaged in behavior violative of the Hateful Conduct policy.’
The documents detail how Twitter in October 2020 decided to censor the New York Post’s reporting on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. They feared the contents were obtained through hacking, but had no evidence to prove it, and it quickly emerged that the laptop had simply been left at a repair store.
Jack Dorsey, the then-CEO of Twitter, admitted that censoring the legitimate reporting was a significant error.
Twitter’s new owner and ‘Chief Twit’ Elon Musk on Wednesday claimed the ‘most important’ Twitter data was ‘deleted’ and ‘hidden’ from the Dorsey.
Musk, 51, has vowed that ‘everything we find will be released’ as his newly acquired company continues to release the Twitter Files.
On Wednesday, Dorsey, 46, replied to Musk’s tweet about delaying the second batch of the Twitter Files, calling for the new CEO to ‘release everything’ at once.
‘If the goal is transparency to build trust, why not just release everything without filter and let people judge for themselves? Including all discussions around current and future actions?’ Dorsey wrote.
‘Make everything public now.’
Musk replied that everything would be released, but even the ‘most important data was hidden (from [Dorsey] too) and some may have been deleted.’
Elon Musk, 51, has vowed that ‘everything we find will be released’ as Twitter continues to release the files surrounding Hunter Biden’s laptop scandal
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, 46, called for transparency on Wednesday after Musk revealed the second back of the Twitter Files would be delayed
‘If the goal is transparency to build trust, why not just release everything without filter and let people judge for themselves?’ Dorsey wrote on Twitter
The delay came after the Tesla CEO fired James Baker – Twitter’s general counsel and former FBI general counsel – after discovering he vetted the first installment of the Files, which were sent to journalist Matt Taibbi, from Substack, and Common Sense Editor Bari Weiss.
Musk fired Baker ‘in light of concerns about Baker’s possible role in suppression of information important to the public dialogue.’
Taibbi revealed that Baker’s involvement in the first batch of files was ‘without knowledge of new management.’
‘The process for producing the ‘Twitter Files’ involved delivery to two journalists (Bari Weiss and me) via a lawyer close to new management. However, after the initial batch, things became complicated,’ Taibbi wrote on Twitter.
‘Over the weekend, while we both dealt with obstacles to new searches, it was @BariWeiss who discovered that the person in charge of releasing the files was someone named Jim. When she called to ask ‘Jim’s’ last name, the answer came back: ‘Jim Baker.’
Weiss said her ‘jaw hit the floor’ when she found out.
The first batch of files the two journalists received was titled the Spectra Baker Emails.
The delay came after Twitter fired James Baker – the company’s general counsel – after discovering he vetted the first installment of the Twitter Files
Musk fired Baker ‘in light of concerns about Baker’s possible role in suppression of information important to the public dialogue.’ Matt Taibbi, one of the journalists that received the first batch of files, revealed that Baker’s involvement in the first batch of files was ‘without knowledge of new management’
The first batch of internal documents showed Baker and other executives discussing Twitter’s October 2020 ban on a news report about Hunter’s foreign business deals, based on emails from his abandoned laptop.
On Friday, Taibbi published the batch of internal documents, calling them the ‘Twitter Files,’ which included an exchange between Baker and former VP of Global Comms Brandon Borrman.
Borrman asks, regarding banning an article about Hunter Biden under Twitter’s ‘hacked materials’ policy: ‘Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?’
Baker responded, appearing to argue in favor of maintaining the ban, because ‘caution is warranted.’
At the time, the files were determined to have broken Twitter’s hacked materials policy, but Dorsey has since said the call was a mistake.
Critics accused Twitter of swaying the presidential election toward Biden by covering up the data.
Baker, Musk, and the trial of the Democrat lawyer accused of lying to the FBI
James Baker has long been in the crosshairs of Elon Musk, who on October 27 became his boss.
Baker played a key role in a series of events that led to Democrat lawyer Michael Sussmann going on trial in May, accused of lying to the FBI.
He was not accused of giving the FBI false information, but rather lying about who he worked for.
The saga began when Sussmann was given information from a group of data scientists who analyzed odd internet data they thought might suggest clandestine communications between a server for the Trump Organization and a server for Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked Russian financial institution.
Sussmann then texted Baker, at the time the bureau’s general counsel, to say he had information the FBI should be aware of.
‘I’m coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company — want to help the bureau,’ Sussmann wrote in his text to Baker.
Baker testified that he was certain Sussmann was acting as an individual, and would likely not have met him were he working for the Clinton campaign.
Sussmann, a cybersecurity specialist, had worked for the Democratic Party in the context of Russia’s hacking of its servers, and Russia publishing emails from the servers.
Sussmann was also connected to the Democrats via one of his partners at the law firm Perkins Coie, Marc Elias, who was representing the Clinton campaign and hired Fusion GPS.
Yet multiple people – including Elias – testified that Sussmann was indeed acting on his own accord, and argued that actually going to the FBI was not in the interests of the Clinton campaign, which would have preferred a New York Times story drawing attention to the assertions.
The FBI later decided the allegations of links between the Trump campaign and the Russian bank were unfounded.
Musk tweeted during the trial that he thought Sussmann had ‘created an elaborate hoax’ about Russia, in a bid to help Clinton.
On May 16, staunchly pro-Trump Congressman Jim Jordan tweeted: ‘Christopher Steele created the dossier.
‘Glenn Simpson sold it to the press.
‘Michael Sussman took it to the FBI.
‘And Democrats and the media lied to you about it all.’
Musk then replied in agreement.
‘All true,’ he tweeted on May 20.
‘Bet most people still don’t know that a Clinton campaign lawyer, using campaign funds, created an elaborate hoax about Trump and Russia.
‘Makes you wonder what else is fake.’
On May 31, the jury concluded that Sussmann had not lied to the FBI and cleared him.