The world of Big Tech was turned upside down when Elon Musk bought Twitter. And while his takeover has been a wild ride, no CEO of a major social media platform has taken such drastic measures to pull back the curtain than Musk with his “Twitter Files.”
Musk’s Twitter Files began going viral in December with each installment tackling what went on behind the scenes during the company’s most controversial actions. The Twitter Files have been reported by a rotation of independent journalists and writers, who were given unprecedented access to Twitter’s internal archives.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the 15 installments that have been published so far:
Twitter Files 1: Suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story
Substack writer Matt Taibbi went viral with the first installment focusing on Twitter’s internal discussions leading to it censor the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election, with some officials struggling to explain how it violated its “hacked materials” policies.
Among the revelations in Twitter Files 1 was that Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., reached out to Twitter’s then head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde about the “backlash re speech” and how Twitter was not adhering to “1st Amendment principles.” As Taibbi noted, Khanna “was the only Democratic official I could find in the files who expressed concern.”
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It was later revealed that the first batch of “Twitter Files” was vetted without Musk’s knowledge by Twitter deputy general counsel Jim Baker, who previously served as the FBI’s general counsel and was involved in the Russia probe. Musk fired Baker shortly thereafter.
Baker was swept up Taibbi’s reporting about the suppression of the Hunter Biden story, telling his colleagues at the time, “I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked” but added, “it’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted.”
Additionally, Taibbi initially reported, “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.” It is unclear whether Baker’s involvement in vetting the “Twitter Files” led Taibbi to draw that conclusion and whether Baker omitted files that would have shown the federal government intervening in Twitter’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Twitter Files 2: The existence of shadowbanning
For years, Twitter executives rejected claims made by conservatives that they were being “shaddowbanned,” a term commonly described about Twitter users who are unaware that their visible presence on the platform is buried.
The second installment of the Twitter Files confirmed such a practice took place. The Free Press editor Bari Weiss revealed Twitter’s “blacklisting” of prominent conservatives, including Fox News host Dan Bongino, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, as well as Stanford University’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a longstanding opponent of COVID groupthink during the pandemic who expressed opposition to lockdowns.
Internal communications also reveal Twitter staffers admitting that the popular right-wing account Libs of TikTok never violated its “hateful conduct” policy despite being punished several times for allegedly doing so.
Those revelations appear to contradict what former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified to Congress under oath in 2018 that Twitter did not censor or shadowban conservatives.
Twitter Files 3-5: Permanently suspending a sitting president
The third, fourth and fifth installments of the Twitter Files focused on the permanent suspension of former President Trump around the Capitol riot in January 2021.
Taibbi reported how Twitter circulated election-related tweets from various users leading up to the 2020 election that were “flagged” by the FBI as being problematic.
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Independent writer Michael Shellenberger revealed that Dorsey was phoning it in as he was on vacation while his deputies were pushing to deplatform Trump, with Twitter’s former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth particularly spearheading efforts to censor other users pertaining to tweets about the 2020 election. It became known that Roth met on a weekly basis with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the office of the Director of National Intelligence in the weeks leading up to the election.
Weiss addressed the pressure Twitter management was facing from its employees who called for Trump’s permanent suspension, though the Free Press editor also revealed several Twitter staffers who enforce policies did not believe Trump’s tweets from Jan. 6 actually violated its rules.
However, it was Vijaya Gadde, then-Twitter’s head legal chief, who asked if Trump’s tweets could be “coded incitement to further violence.” Moments later, the so-called “scaled enforcement team” suggested that based on how Twitter interprets Trump’s tweets, it could violate the violence incitement policies.
Twitter Files 6: The FBI, a ‘subsidiary’ of the tech giant
Part six of the “Twitter Files” put a spotlight on Twitter’s close ties with the FBI. Taibbi alleged the law enforcement agency was acting like a “subsidiary” of the tech giant, revealing communications that showed FBI agents systemically flagged Twitter users for tweets that included “possible violative content” pertaining to the 2020 election.
Emails show FBI special agent Elvis Chan was in constant contact with Twitter regarding tweets the agency appeared to have wanted to be taken down.
In response to the “Twitter Files,” a spokesperson for the FBI told Fox News Digital, “The FBI regularly engages with private sector entities to provide information specific to identified foreign malign influence actors’ subversive, undeclared, covert, or criminal activities. Private sector entities independently make decisions about what, if any, action they take on their platforms and for their customers after the FBI has notified them.”
The FBI’s routine contact with Twitter regarding users that would ultimately face punishment for their tweets has raised major flags about potential First Amendment violations.
Twitter Files 7: The FBI’s ‘influence campaign’ to censor Hunter Biden scandal
In part seven, Shellenberger framed the Twitter’s coziness with the FBI in the context of the Hunter Biden laptop story, showing the FBI’s requests for Twitter to share sensitive data of its users, which Twitter refused to give, and the agency’s repeated inquiries into whether Twitter has seen foreign activity leading up to the 2020 election, something Twitter at the time said it hadn’t. On Oct. 13, 2020, just one day before the New York Post broke its Hunter Biden story that was quickly censored, Twitter received ten unknown documents from the FBI through its secure one-way Teleport channel.
One email from February 2021 shows the FBI paid Twitter over $3.4 million since October 2019 over the course of their partnership, as Twitter’s policies seek reimbursements when it comes to producing information as part of a legal process.
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Yoel Roth, Twitter’s then head of trust and safety, had even participated in what was dubbed the “Hack-and-Dump Working Group” with the Aspen Institute in September 2020 to elaborately simulate how the media and Big Tech should handle something like the Hunter Biden laptop.
The FBI remained defiant amid criticism, telling Fox News in a statement “The correspondence between the FBI and Twitter show nothing more than examples of our traditional, longstanding and ongoing federal government and private sector engagements, which involve numerous companies over multiple sectors and industries. As evidenced in the correspondence, the FBI provides critical information to the private sector in an effort to allow them to protect themselves and their customers… It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.”
Twitter Files 8-9: Assisting the U.S. military and ‘OGAs’
In the eighth installment, Intercept investigative reporter Lee Fang exposed Twitter’s assistance in the Pentagon’s foreign influencing campaigns, allowing the military to use covert accounts to push out propaganda overseas despite it being against Twitter’s own policies.
Taibbi separately reported in the ninth installment about Twitter’s constant interactions with “OGAs” (other government agencies) including the CIA.
Twitter Files 10: The White House’s crackdown on COVID ‘misinformation’
The tenth batch of Twitter Files, this time reported by writer David Zweig, focused on COVID and the platform’s efforts to enforce its so-called “misinformation” policy, reporting “both the Trump and Biden administrations directly pressed Twitter executives to moderate the platform’s pandemic content according to their wishes.”
Citing Twitter’s “meeting notes” with the Trump administration, one name-dropped then-White House Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, who “led the Trump administration’s calls for help from the tech companies to combat misinformation.”
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“Areas of focus included conspiracies around 5G cell towers, runs on grocery stores, and misinformation that could stoke panic buying and behaviors,” the memo read, according to Zweig.
The memo revealed other companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft participated in “weekly” calls with the Trump administration to discuss “general trends” that were happening on their platforms.
Zweig highlighted another memo written by Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s Head of U.S. Public Policy, who claimed the Biden team was “very angry” about Twitter not taking action to “de-platform” various accounts based on meetings with the White House.
Twitter Files 11: ‘PR crisis’ following the 2016 election
In the eleventh installment of Elon Musk’s “Twitter Files,” Substack writer Matt Taibbi reported about the “PR crisis” Twitter underwent in 2017 when Democrats pummeled the tech giant for its apparent inaction of investigating Russian influence on the platform as Facebook was public with uprooting suspicious foreign accounts following the 2016 presidential election, something Taibbi concluded influenced Twitter to embrace the intel community.
Amid pressure, Twitter launched a “Russia Task Force” to investigate whether the Kremlin had such a foothold on the platform, even after it had suspended several suspected Russia-linked accounts.
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Taibbi highlighted the discrepancy between Twitter’s “external” policy, which was that it would remove content “in our soul discretion,” while its “internal guidance” read that “any user identified by the U.S. intelligence community as a state-sponsored entity conducting cyber operations against targets associated with U.S. or other elections… shall not be allowed to advertise on Twitter.”
“We will not be reverting to the status quo,” Twitter’s then-Public Policy VP Colin Crowell told his colleagues at the time.
Twitter Files 12: Rep. Adam Schiff’s office targets accounts
Buried in the 12th installment of the Twitter Files was the revelation that the office of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., urged Twitter to suspend accounts that drew attention to his staff including journalist Paul Sperry.
Later, in a Twitter Files “supplemental,” Taibbi revealed that Schiff’s office “quite often” requested tweeted to be taken down, including a visual parody of then-candidate Biden.
Most of this batch of Twitter Files was focused on eagerness from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), which Taibbi described as a “fledgling analytic/intelligence” arm to participate in guiding Twitter’s moderation of content and how it often used the media to clash with the tech giant beginning in February 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic was underway.
Twitter Files 13: Pfizer board member flags tweets questioning COVID vaccine
Making his debut in the Twitter Files saga, Substack writer and vocal COVID policy contrarian Alex Berenson reported that Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner and sitting board member Pfizer who became a media darling during the pandemic, leaned on Twitter to crack down on tweets casting doubt in the effectiveness of the vaccine, including one former Trump administration official Dr. Brett Giroir.
Berenson noted in his report that Gottlieb has also targeted him days before he was permanently suspended from Twitter (Berenson was later reinstated in July 2022 after a legal battle with the tech giant).
Gottlieb slammed the “selective disclosure of my private communications with Twitter” in reaction to Berenson’s turn at the Twitter Files.
Twitter Files 14: Top Democrats peddled false ‘Russian bots’ narrative despite warnings
Taibbi took aim at top Democrats, specifically California Rep. Adam Schiff, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Connecticutt Sen. Richard Blumenthal, for pushing a false narrative that “Russian bots” were promoting Devin Nunes’ memo that undermined the Russian collusion investigation which trended on Twitter despite being told by Twitter executives that there wasn’t a connection to the Kremlin.
Several media outlets including AP, Politico, NBC News and Rolling Stone, also peddled the claim without any evidence.
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Twitter Files 15: BioNTech lobbied to censor activists calling for low-cost generic vaccines
BioNTech, Pfizer’s biotechnology partner that help develop a COVID vaccine, leaned on Twitter to censor users who called for the pharmaceutical giant to produce a low-cost generic vaccine so that more people around the world could be treated for the virus. According to reporting from The Intercept’s Lee Fang, it is unclear whether Twitter met its demands.