Posted originally on the CTH on December 25, 2022 | Sundance
Twitter File release #10 was shared by journalist Matt Taibbi on Christmas Eve [Outline Here]. In many ways this is the most important release so far; not from the context of the internal Twitter communication Taibbi cites, but rather from what it means in the bigger picture.
As with the prior releases, Taibbi is describing the evolution of a process we suspected, discussed, outlined and then documented at CTH for several years. Taibbi is outlining exactly how the public-private partnership behind Jack’s Magic Coffee Shop was created. Each new revelation, and Elon Musk’s reaction to that revelation, is pointing toward Musk not having any knowledge of what was going on in the Coffee Shop Production Space.
Taibbi shares the scale and scope of contacts into Twitter from a variety of government agencies including the CIA. However, as the public-private partnership over the platform moderation continued in time, access to controlling content expanded from federal agencies to even state and local officials. In essence, the control over platform content evolved into a whole of government approach.
This is a critical inflection point in the evolution of the Twitter file release because the ramifications now begin to surface publicly. Taibbi walks through Twitter being overwhelmed by the inbound instructions from various agencies. The FBI acting as the gatekeeper for Homeland Security, Defense Dept, CIA, State Dept., and other partnership agencies within government through the “Foreign Influence Task Force” (FITF).
As Taibbi provides context for the internal conversation, “The operation is far bigger than the reported 80 members of the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), which also facilitates requests from a wide array of smaller actors – from local cops to media to state governments. Twitter had so much contact with so many agencies that executives lost track. Is today the DOD, and tomorrow the FBI? Is it the weekly call, or the monthly meeting? It was dizzying.”
It is easy to get immediately focused on the granular details of the operation to control the public conversation.
Yes, various government agencies including DHS, FBI and the CIA were telling Twitter what content was permitted and what content to remove. However, it is important to stand back and look at the big picture as it is being described.
Remember, as an outcome of these contacts real consequences to users took place.
Not only was content removed and users suspended, but also in the expanded dynamic of the social media space, people were blacklisted, deplatformed, demonetized, de-banked and had their support systems removed.
Content creators, adverse to the interests of government agencies, on multiple platforms, were attacked in this process that extends far beyond Twitter.
As Taibbi again notes, “The government was in constant contact not just with Twitter but with virtually every major tech firm. These included Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, Reddit, even Pinterest, and many others. Industry players also held regular meetings without government.” This is far beyond a first amendment issue, now we are entering the space where government is targeting not only the voice of specific people, but also their platform, their incomes, their livelihoods and ability to operate.
Twitter File release #10 is an inflection point, now showing government using multiple social media platforms to target specific people. How much deplatforming and demonetization was done at the request of a government agency? Those questions are where this is going….
Keep in mind, these files are only as they relate to Twitter, yet these files as outlined by Taibbi show government agencies searching platform content using keywords. “They have some folks in the Baltimore field office and at HQ that are just doing keyword searches for violations. This is probably the 10th request I have dealt with in the last 5 days,” Taibbi shares as one example in paragraph 27.
If the FBI (DHS, CIA, ODNI, DoD, DoS) had assigned personnel to do keyword searches on Twitter, it stands to reason they were doing content review on YouTube, Google, Facebook, Instagram and yes, even WordPress-Automattic. Those government agencies then reach out to the platform control officers with instructions on content and account removal. Let that sink in for a moment.
I would strongly urge everyone to read the entire outline provided by Taibbi, and (as I see his eyes starting to fathom exactly where this story is going) I give him credit for this qualifier at the end. “The CIA has yet to comment on the nature of its relationship to tech companies like Twitter. Twitter had no input into anything I did or wrote. The searches were carried out by third parties, so what I saw could be limited.”
The larger objective of U.S. government involvement in social media has always been monitoring and surveillance of the public conversation, shaping and influencing public opinion, and ultimately controlling outcomes. Put another way, the illusion of freedom.
Hey Matt, Merry Christmas!
ps. Watch Musk reaction below: