The Twitter Files released on Friday night contained a number of shocking revelations. But to the surprise of many, there weren’t any ‘smoking gun’ conclusions that the U.S. government itself had intervened with directives to censor Hunter Biden stories prior to the 2020 election.
Matt Taibbi reported in the Twitter Files release that it didn’t appear to him that there was any evidence of “government involvement in the laptop story.”
Although several sources recalled hearing about a “general” warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence – that I’ve seen – of any government involvement in the laptop story. In fact, that might have been the problem.
However, the former Head of Site Integrity at Twitter, Yoel Roth, provided testimony in December 2020 in response to a Federal Elections Commission complaint that directly contradicts this assessment.
During the heat of the contested election, Twitter’s legal counsel responded to a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission arguing that Twitter’s intervention to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story constituted an illegal ‘in-kind contribution’ to the Biden campaign.
Yoel Roth, contrary to information disclosed in the Twitter Files, provided testimony in an “exhibit” to the FEC response that appears to make several false or contradictory statements.
“As a matter of practice, neither I nor the other members of the Site Integrity Team communicate directly with persons outside Twitter that report content for violating Twitter’ s policies,” Roth claimed.
“When evaluating potentially hacked material to determine if there is a violation of Twitter’s Distribution of Hacked Materials Policy, the Site Integrity Team considers public declarations of hacking as determinative,” he continued. “If no such claim is made, the Site Integrity Team considers other indicia of hacking to assess whether the material was obtained through hacking based on the team’s experience and expertise.”
“Since 2018, I have had regular meetings with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and industry peers regarding election security,” he revealed.
“During these weekly meetings, the federal law enforcement agencies communicated that they expected ‘hack-and-leak operations’ by state actors might occur in the period shortly before the 2020 presidential election, likely in October,” he went on. “I was told in these meetings that the intelligence community expected that individuals associated with political campaigns would be subject to hacking attacks and that material obtained through those hacking attacks would likely be disseminated over social media platforms, including Twitter. These expectations of hack-and-leak operations were discussed throughout 2020. I also learned in these meetings that there were rumors that a hack-and-leak operation would involve Hunter Biden.”
This is a very important concession. Despite claims that Twitter’s censorship of the Hunter Biden story came solely at the behest of the Biden campaign staff and the Democratic National Committee, Roth’s testimony highly suggests that the U.S. security state apparatus was deeply implicated in Twitter’s decision to remove the story.
New York Post columnist and author of “The Laptop from Hell” Miranda Devine also notes there is a suspect lack of documentation of the FBI’s role in the Hunter Biden laptop story’s suppression.
Twitter would not be the only social media giant to reveal such government-directed election interference. In Mark Zuckerberg’s interview with Joe Rogan, and subsequent testimony before Congress, the tech billionaire reveals that the FBI was deeply involved in policing information ahead of the 2020 election, which impacted distribution of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Yoel Roth used the “distribution of hacked materials policy” as well as the “private information policy” as cover for Twitter’s decision to censor the story.
“On October 14, 2020, I learned from media coverage that the New York Post had posted articles to its website that morning containing emails and other personal materials purportedly found on a hard drive that allegedly belonged to Hunter Biden,” Roth said.
“The Site Integrity Team preliminarily determined that the information in the articles could have been obtained through hacking, based on, among other things, the type of material, the sourcing described in the articles, and the information security community’s initial reactions,” he continued.
“The materials in the New York Post articles also contained personal email addresses and telephone numbers, and so sharing them on Twitter violated the Private Information Policy,” he added. “Given the high-profile nature of the material and publisher, the Site Integrity Team escalated the New York Post articles for further review.”
“Twitter’s Trust & Safety leadership determined that the New York Post articles violated the Distribution of Hacked Materials Policy and the Private Information Policy and instructed the Site Integrity Team to execute enforcement of those policies,” he said.
But Twitter’s internal deliberations showed that there was pushback against coming to the conclusion that the materials were “hacked.”
Comms official Trenton Kennedy writes, “I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe,” Taibbi noted.
“By this point ‘everyone knew this was fucked,’ said one former employee, but the response was essentially to err on the side of… continuing to err,” he added.
As Emma Jo-Morris, one of the co-authors of the New York Post’s story notes, however, Twitter ignored the statements in the article that indicated the materials were not “hacked.”
The Twitter internal deliberations revealed tonight display willful ignorance of the facts of the story published by the New York Post on Oct. 14, 2020 in order to censor the reporting. https://t.co/HgzgbFdxzD
— Emma-Jo Morris (@EmmaJoNYC) December 3, 2022
“The Twitter internal deliberations revealed tonight display willful ignorance of the facts of the story published by the New York Post on Oct. 14, 2020 in order to censor the reporting,” Emma Jo-Morris, now a Breitbart author, remarked.
She notes that Yoel Roth messaged colleague Vijaya Gadde stating, “The policy basis is hacked materials — though, as discussed, this is an emerging situation where the facts remain unclear. Given the SEVERE risks here and lessons of 2016, we’re erring on the side of including a warning and preventing this content from being amplified.”
Brandon Borrman, a fellow member of management, asked, “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?”
Jim Baker, who was Twitter’s Deputy Legal Counsel and a former senior member of the FBI, remarked, “[We] need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked. At this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that conclusion is warranted.”
However, as the story notes, Baker admitted that there was evidence “indicating that the computer was either abandoned and/or the owner consented to allow the repair shop to access it for at least some purposes.”
The Federal Elections Commission Chair Sean Cooksey reacted to the Twitter Files revelations on Friday by noting an ostensibly false claim made about its collusion with the Biden campaign to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Here's what Twitter told the @FEC in its response to a complaint about this event: "Twitter did not receive a request from the Biden campaign to review (much less restrict) the N.Y. Post articles. …" https://t.co/8Q08wkdcaQ
— Sean Cooksey (@SeanJCooksey) December 3, 2022
“Here’s what Twitter told the FEC in its response to a complaint about this event: ‘Twitter did not receive a request from the Biden campaign to review (much less restrict) the N.Y. Post articles’,” Cooksey said.
“Nor did decision-makers at Twitter, or to the best of the company’s knowledge, anyone authorized to act on Twitter’s behalf even communicate with the Biden campaign regarding Twitter’s decision to enforce its content moderation policies with respect to the N.Y. Post articles,” he continued.
“You can read their entire response, including two affidavits from Twitter employees involved, here,” he added.
“When the FEC dismissed the complaint, I did not sign onto the Commission’s theory that Twitter acted only for commercial reasons,” he continued. “I wasn’t convinced, but I still didn’t think it was a campaign-finance violation, as I explained at the time.”
It appears in Cooksey’s statement, however, there is a misrepresentation of the nature of Twitter. It is not a “publisher,” but a social media platform with Section 230 liability protections.
“In short, Twitter’s principal business is the creation and distribution of media content, subject to its editorial and moderation standards, which is at the heart of constitutionally protected press activity,” he claimed. “Consequently, Twitter is entitled to engage in these traditional media activities—even if done with a political motive or bias—without tripping into a campaign-finance violation.”
The political cover that the censorship had come from the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee, rather than at the directive of the FBI and the security state, is one that is crumbling by the moment.
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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.