In a greatly anticipated Friday night drop of what has was expected to be a cache of information involving the censoring of Hunter Biden’s notebook story days ahead of the 2020 presidential election, moments ago Elon Musk – who worked in collaboration with the notoriously independent gonzo journalist Matt Taibbi of “Vampire Squid” fame – has published the “Twitter Files.”
Shortly before their release, Matt Taibbi sent the following email to his substack subscribers:
Dear TK Readers:
Very shortly, I’m going to begin posting a long thread of information on Twitter, at my account, @mtaibbi. This material is likely to get a lot of attention. I will absolutely understand if subscribers are angry that it is not appearing here on Substack first. I’d be angry, too.
The last 96 hours have been among the most chaotic of my life, involving multiple trips back and forth across the country, with a debate in Canada in between. There’s a long story I hope to be able to tell soon, but can’t, not quite yet anyway. What I can say is that in exchange for the opportunity to cover a unique and explosive story, I had to agree to certain conditions.
Those of you who’ve been here for years know how seriously I take my obligation to this site’s subscribers. On this one occasion, I’m going to have to simply ask you to trust me. As it happens, there may be a few more big surprises coming, and those will be here on Substack. And there will be room here to to discuss this, too, in time. In any case, thanks for your support and your patience, and please hold me to a promise to make all this up to you, and then some.
Moments later Elon confirmed that he did, in fact, work with Taibbi:
And this is what Taibbi has been tweeting in the past few minutes (link here):
1. Thread: THE TWITTER FILES
2. What you’re about to read is the first installment in a series, based upon thousands of internal documents obtained by sources at Twitter.
3. The “Twitter Files” tell an incredible story from inside one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms. It is a Frankensteinian tale of a human-built mechanism grown out the control of its designer.
4. Twitter in its conception was a brilliant tool for enabling instant mass communication, making a true real-time global conversation possible for the first time.
5. In an early conception, Twitter more than lived up to its mission statement, giving people “the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”
6. As time progressed, however, the company was slowly forced to add those barriers. Some of the first tools for controlling speech were designed to combat the likes of spam and financial fraudsters.
7. Slowly, over time, Twitter staff and executives began to find more and more uses for these tools. Outsiders began petitioning the company to manipulate speech as well: first a little, then more often, then constantly.
8. By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine. One executive would write to another: “More to review from the Biden team.” The reply would come back: “Handled.”
9. Celebrities and unknowns alike could be removed or reviewed at the behest of a political party:
10.Both parties had access to these tools. For instance, in 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored. However:
11. This system wasn’t balanced. It was based on contacts. Because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, there were more channels, more ways to complain, open to the left (well, Democrats) than the right.
12. The resulting slant in content moderation decisions is visible in the documents you’re about to read. However, it’s also the assessment of multiple current and former high-level executives.
… Okay, there was more throat-clearing about the process, but screw it, let’s jump forward
16. The Twitter Files, Part One: How and Why Twitter Blocked the Hunter Biden Laptop Story
17. On October 14, 2020, the New York Post published BIDEN SECRET EMAILS, an expose based on the contents of Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop:
18. Twitter took extraordinary steps to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it may be “unsafe.” They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool hitherto reserved for extreme cases, e.g. child pornography.
19. White House spokeswoman Kaleigh McEnany was locked out of her account for tweeting about the story, prompting a furious letter from Trump campaign staffer Mike Hahn, who seethed: “At least pretend to care for the next 20 days.”
20.This led public policy executive Caroline Strom to send out a polite WTF query. Several employees noted that there was tension between the comms/policy teams, who had little/less control over moderation, and the safety/trust teams:
21. Strom’s note returned the answer that the laptop story had been removed for violation of the company’s “hacked materials” policy: https://web.archive.org/web/20190717143909/https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/hacked-materials
22. 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…
23. The decision was made at the highest levels of the company, but without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey, with former head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde playing a key role.
24. “They just freelanced it,” is how one former employee characterized the decision. “Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it.”
25.You can see the confusion in the following lengthy exchange, which ends up including Gadde and former Trust and safety chief Yoel Roth. Comms official Trenton Kennedy writes, “I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe”:
26. 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.
27. Former VP of Global Comms Brandon Borrman asks, “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?”
28. To which former Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker again seems to advise staying the non-course, because “caution is warranted”:
29. A fundamental problem with tech companies and content moderation: many people in charge of speech know/care little about speech, and have to be told the basics by outsiders. To wit:
30. In one humorous exchange on day 1, Democratic congressman Ro Khanna reaches out to Gadde to gently suggest she hop on the phone to talk about the “backlash re speech.” Khanna was the only Democratic official I could find in the files who expressed concern.
31. Gadde replies quickly, immediately diving into the weeds of Twitter policy, unaware Khanna is more worried about the Bill of Rights:
32.Khanna tries to reroute the conversation to the First Amendment, mention of which is generally hard to find in the files:
33.Within a day, head of Public Policy Lauren Culbertson receives a ghastly letter/report from Carl Szabo of the research firm NetChoice, which had already polled 12 members of congress – 9 Rs and 3 Democrats, from “the House Judiciary Committee to Rep. Judy Chu’s office.”
34.NetChoice lets Twitter know a “blood bath” awaits in upcoming Hill hearings, with members saying it’s a “tipping point,” complaining tech has “grown so big that they can’t even regulate themselves, so government may need to intervene.”
35.Szabo reports to Twitter that some Hill figures are characterizing the laptop story as “tech’s Access Hollywood moment”:
36.Twitter files continued: “THE FIRST AMENDMENT ISN’T ABSOLUTE”
Szabo’s letter contains chilling passages relaying Democratic lawmakers’ attitudes. They want “more” moderation, and as for the Bill of Rights, it’s “not absolute”
37. An amazing subplot of the Twitter/Hunter Biden laptop affair was how much was done without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey, and how long it took for the situation to get “unfucked” (as one ex-employee put it) even after Dorsey jumped in.
38. While reviewing Gadde’s emails, I saw a familiar name – my own. Dorsey sent her a copy of my Substack article blasting the incident
39. There are multiple instances in the files of Dorsey intervening to question suspensions and other moderation actions, for accounts across the political spectrum
40. The problem with the “hacked materials” ruling, several sources said, was that this normally required an official/law enforcement finding of a hack. But such a finding never appears throughout what one executive describes as a “whirlwind” 24-hour, company-wide mess.
41. It’s been a whirlwind 96 hours for me, too. There is much more to come, including answers to questions about issues like shadow-banning, boosting, follower counts, the fate of various individual accounts, and more. These issues are not limited to the political right.
42. Good night, everyone. Thanks to all those who picked up the phone in the last few days.
* * *
The release was telegraphed one week ago, when Musk acknowledged that revealing Twitter’s internal discussions surrounding the censorship of the New York Post‘s Hunter Biden laptop story right before the 2020 US election is “necessary to restore public trust.”
Recall that the Post had its Twitter account locked in October 2020 for reporting on the now-confirmed-to-be-real“laptop from hell,” which contained still-unprosecuted evidence of foreign influence peddling through then-Vice President Joe Biden – including a 2015 meeting with an executive of Ukrainian gas giant Burisma.
Users who tried to share the link to the article were greeted with a message saying, “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.”
Then, days after Musk’s tweet, Twitter’s former head of Trust and Safety, Yoel Roth, admitted it was a ‘mistake’ to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story.
In his first public appearance since becoming an ex-employee, Roth suggested that the Hunter Biden laptop story was simply ‘too difficult’ for Twitter to verify. Alternatively, the company could have perhaps simply trusted the Post, one of America’s oldest publications that doesn’t have a reputation for fabricating bombshell stories – like Twitter does with countless anonymous bombshells from other major publications.
“We didn’t know what to believe. We didn’t know what was true. There was smoke,” Roth said during an interview at the Knight Foundation conference, as noted by the Epoch Times. “And ultimately for me, it didn’t reach a place where I was comfortable removing this content from Twitter.”
“It set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 ‘hack and leak campaign’ alarm bells,” he said, referring to a notorious team of cyberspies affiliated with Russian military intelligence. “Everything about it looked like a hack and leak.”
When asked whether if it was a mistake to censor the story, Roth replied, “In my opinion, yes.”
Would Roth have suppressed the story if it was a Don Jr. laptop full of incriminating evidence?
* * *
Finally, it will be very interesting to see which “independent”, “impartial” and “objective” members of the Mainstream Media cover the Twitter Files, which unlike all that Russia collusion bullshit, was a real and actionable attempt to interfere with US democracy by covering up one of the most explosive political stories of a generation, not to mention an event that would have swayed the 2020 presidential election.This post was originally published at Zero Hedge
The Truth About Brand
Of course it’s political.
The media assured us claims Brand was the subject of a coordinated political attack were baseless “conspiracy theories”.
Now the political class, the media and literally *the government*, is carrying out a coordinated political attack to unperson him from all public platforms.
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Netanyahu Tells Musk He Hopes He Can Work Within The ‘Confines’ of the First Amendment to ‘Stop Anti-Semitism’ on Twitter
Musk responded by saying he’s “against attacking any group, doesn’t matter who it is.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s met with Twitter/X owner Elon Musk on Monday as part of a public discussion on the dangers of artificial intelligence.
Though it was mostly about AI — which Israel is seeking to take a leading role in — Netanyahu also told Musk he hopes he can work within the “confines” of the First Amendment to “stop anti-Semitism” on X.
WATCH: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Elon Musk he hopes he can work within the "confines" of the First Amendment to "stop anti-Semitism" on X. pic.twitter.com/MiGQAgm1TP— Chris Menahan 🇺🇸 (@infolibnews) September 18, 2023
Musk responded by saying he’s “against attacking any group, doesn’t matter who it is.”
“Obviously I’m against anti-Semitism, I’m against anti— really anything that promotes hate and conflict,” he added.
As I reported in May, the Biden White House’s first-ever “National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism” — which was developed in concert with pro-Israel groups like the Anti-Defamation League — called on “all online platforms” to ban “extremist websites,” ban “hate speech” and institute “zero tolerance” policies to protect Jews from anti-Semitism.
There’s nothing in the First Amendment about banning the criticism of certain groups or banning the promotion of “hate” and there’s nothing in there about prohibiting “hate speech.”
🚨 👀 X is seemingly working on adding government ID verification with Israeli digital ID company AU10TIX. To verify by ID, users will have to upload a selfie and a photo of their government ID. via @X_ALERTS_ pic.twitter.com/gXTChLeFWJ— Reclaim The Net (@ReclaimTheNetHQ) August 16, 2023
Last week, X CEO Linda Yaccarino pledged to expand X’s censorship policies and appears to have banned multiple accounts to please the Center for Countering Digital Hate — which X is actively suing for defamation.
As promised, we're following up on the recent report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) on how X allegedly moderates content. Our hope is that in the future the CCDH will share the full report with us proactively and prioritize partnership over publicity. We have… https://t.co/uxQELjg2L2— Safety (@Safety) September 15, 2023
Canada: School Board Purges Books Written Before 2008 to Advance ‘Equity’
Defeat hate by purging all books written before 2008!
Defeat hate by purging all books written before 2008!
The Peel District School Board near Toronto had its libraries remove all books written before 2008 as part of an “anti-racist and inclusive audit.”
The purge took place over the past year with students shocked to return to school to see their libraries with half-empty shelves.
Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
Those are all examples of books Reina Takata says she can no longer find in her public high school library in Mississauga, Ont., which she visits on her lunch hour most days.
In May, Takata says the shelves at Erindale Secondary School were full of books, but she noticed that they had gradually started to disappear. When she returned to school this fall, things were more stark.
“This year, I came into my school library and there are rows and rows of empty shelves with absolutely no books,” said Takata, who started Grade 10 last week.
She estimates more than 50 per cent of her school’s library books are gone.
In the spring, Takata says students were told by staff that “if the shelves look emptier right now it’s because we have to remove all books [published] prior to 2008.”
Takata is one of several Peel District School Board (PDSB) students, parents and community members CBC Toronto spoke to who are concerned about a seemingly inconsistent approach to a new equity-based book weeding process implemented by the board last spring in response to a provincial directive from the Minister of Education.
They say the new process, intended to ensure library books are inclusive, appears to have led some schools to remove thousands of books solely because they were published in 2008 or earlier.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office said said he wrote to the board to halt the process in order to… fight anti-Semitism?
Prior to publication, neither Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office, nor the Education Ministry, would comment on PDSB’s implementation of Lecce’s directive when contacted by CBC Toronto.
But in a statement Wednesday, the education minister said he has written to the board to immediately end this practice.
“Ontario is committed to ensuring that the addition of new books better reflects the rich diversity of our communities,” said Lecce.
“It is offensive, illogical and counterintuitive to remove books from years past that educate students on Canada’s history, antisemitism or celebrated literary classics.”
Incidentally, Holocaust denial was also banned last year in Canada to “fight anti-Semitism.”
Both the CBC and Global News would only criticize the book bans on the grounds they hurt the forward march of progress.
[…] Takata, who is of Japanese descent, is concerned weeding by publication date doesn’t follow that norm and will erase important history.
“I think that authors who wrote about Japanese internment camps are going to be erased and the entire events that went on historically for Japanese Canadians are going to be removed,” she said.
“That worries me a lot.”
Another complaint the CBC highlighted was a woman who said she was told the diary of Anne Frank was removed.
“Dianne Lawson, [a] member of Libraries not Landfills, told CBC Toronto weeding by publication date in some schools must have occurred in order to explain why a middle school teacher told her The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank was removed from shelves,” the CBC reported.
Canadians concerned with their own history being thrown into the garbage can take a hike.
“Books published prior to 2008 that are damaged, inaccurate, or do not have strong circulation data (are not being checked out by students) are removed,” [the PDSB said in a statement to CBC Toronto].
If damaged books have strong circulation the board says they can be replaced regardless of publication date, and older titles can stay in the collection if they are “accurate, serve the curriculum, align with board initiatives and are responsive to student interest and engagement.”
“The Peel District School Board works to ensure that the books available in our school libraries are culturally responsive, relevant, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of our school communities and the broader society,” said the board.
Inclusivity, of course, means purging everything which could be considered racist, politically incorrect (aka technically correct) or far-right.
In that context, purging everything written before 2008 makes perfect sense (though they’re probably going to have push the date up to 2016 or so in the near future).
The CBC shared the photo below showing some of the empty shelves after the purge. The book in the center-right is “Until We Break” by Jamaican Canadian author Matthew Dawkins, which is about overcoming white racism.
It has only 12 reviews on Amazon.
CBC’s report continues:
[PDSB’s] Directive 18 instructs the board to complete a diversity audit of schools, which includes libraries.
“The Board shall evaluate books, media and all other resources currently in use for teaching and learning English, History and Social Sciences for the purpose of utilizing resources that are inclusive and culturally responsive, relevant and reflective of students, and the Board’s broader school communities,” reads the directive.
PDSB’s “equitable curation cycle” is described generally in the board document as “a three-step process that holds Peel staff accountable for being critically conscious of how systems operate, so that we can dismantle inequities and foster practices that are culturally responsive and relevant.”
First, teacher librarians were instructed to focus on reviewing books that were published 15 or more years ago — so in 2008 or earlier.
Then, librarians were to go through each of those books and consider the widely-used “MUSTIE” acronym adapted from Canadian School Libraries. The letters stand for the criteria librarians are supposed to consider, and they include:
Misleading – information may be factually inaccurate or obsolete.
Unpleasant – refers to the physical condition of the book, may require replacement.
Superseded – book been overtaken by a new edition or a more current resource.
Trivial – of no discernible literary or scientific merit; poorly written or presented.
Irrelevant – doesn’t meet the needs and interests of the library’s community.
Elsewhere – the book or the material in it may be better obtained from other sources.
The deadline to complete this step was the end of June, according to the document.
Step two of curation is an anti-racist and inclusive audit, where quality is defined by “resources that promote anti-racism, cultural responsiveness and inclusivity.” And step three is a representation audit of how books and other resources reflect student diversity.
The purged books were ordered to be thrown into the trash or recycled:
When it comes to disposing of the books that are weeded, the board documents say the resources are “causing harm,” either as a health hazard because of the condition of the book or because “they are not inclusive, culturally responsive, relevant or accurate.”
For those reasons, the documents say the books cannot be donated, as “they are not suitable for any learners.”
A PDSB spokesperson said the board supports its schools “in the disposal of books in a responsible manner by following Peel Region’s recycling guidelines.” Peel Region allows for the recycling of book paper, as long as hard covers and any other plastics are removed first and put in the garbage.
[…] CBC Toronto recently reviewed a recording of a May 8 board committee meeting focused on the new equitable weeding process. In it, trustee Karla Bailey noted “there are so many empty shelves,” when she walks into schools.
“When you talk to the librarian in the library, the books are being weeded by the date, no other criteria,” Bailey told the committee.
“That is where many of us have a real issue. None of us have an issue with removing books that are musty, torn, or racist, outdated. But by weeding a book, removing a book from a shelf, based simply on this date is unacceptable. And yes, I witnessed it.”
Bernadette Smith, superintendent of innovation and research for PDSB, is heard responding on the recording, saying it was “very disappointing” to hear that, because she said that’s not the direction the board is giving in its training for the process.
Banning “racist” books is just fine but kids need to learn about the Holocaust and Japanese internment.
Trustee and chair of the board, David Green, told CBC Toronto the weeding process itself “rolled out wrong.”
That’s why he says trustees briefly paused the process until the board could get a better understanding of what was actually going on.
A motion was passed at a May 24 board meeting to ensure that, going forward, those weeding books during the anti-racist and inclusive audit in the second phase of the curation cycle would need to document the title and reason for removal before any books were disposed of.
“We have to make sure that we are meeting the needs of the students and not just rolling something out because we were told to do it,” said Green.
When it comes to removing all books published in 2008 or earlier, Green said the board of trustees has heard that, too.
“We have asked the Director [of Education] again to make sure that if that is taking place, then that is stopped, and then the proper process is followed,” he said.
Green also said they have plans to communicate with parents about the weeding process.
In the meantime, students like Takata are left with half-empty shelves and questions about why they weren’t consulted about their own libraries.
“No one asked for our opinions,” she said. “I feel that taking away books without anyone’s knowledge is considered censorship.”
In short, after a bit of polish, the process will continue.
As George Orwell wrote in 1984: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
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