Independent journalist Matt Taibbi released a supplemental edition of the Twitter Files on Friday which detailed the many requests made by the office of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to ban posts that criticized Joe Biden and purportedly advanced conspiracy theories.
Previous editions of the project, revealed by independent reporters based on emails and other internal company documents provided by Twitter CEO Elon Musk, have shown that federal law enforcement agencies policed content on the platform and asked executives to remove certain posts. The latest release showed that staffers working for Schiff, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote to Twitter “quite often” asking for posts to be removed.
One such request centered upon an edited GIF of Biden, who was running for the Oval Office at the time, after former President Donald Trump retweeted the image. A staffer had claimed that the post, which showed Biden sticking out his tongue and making faces, violated “manipulated media” policies in an email to former Twitter safety chief Yoel Roth, who responded by saying that the image was “pretty clearly edited” with “humorous intent.”
Roth added that “any reasonable observer” could see through the edited post and said the image did not represent a rules violation. Another Schiff staffer nevertheless insisted on Twitter removing the post, claiming that the edited GIF constituted a “slippery slope concern.” Twitter executives remained firm that they would not take the image down.
The Schiff team also asked Twitter for a sweeping removal of content regarding the lawmaker and his staff, which a Twitter executive said would not be “conceivable.”
Staffers “repeatedly complained about ‘QAnon related activity’ that were often tweets about other matters, like the identity of the Ukraine ‘whistleblower’ or the Steele dossier,” according to Taibbi, who said that Twitter “deamplified” such accounts. “We can internally confirm that a number of the accounts flagged are already included in this deamplification,” one Twitter executive said in an email.
The Schiff team, however, expressed concern that deamplification could “inadvertently impede the ability of law enforcement to search Twitter for potential threats” about Sean Misko, a former staffer on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The newest release of the Twitter Files comes after a previous edition showed that Schiff’s office asked executives to ban Paul Sperry, a journalist who had written about a conversation overheard by his sources regarding how to remove Trump from office. Twitter initially declined the request but later suspended Sperry.
Another edition of the Twitter Files indicated that federal agencies, particularly the FBI, contacted Twitter about the censorship of so many posts that employees congratulated each other in internal company communications for the “monumental undertaking” of reviewing them.
Other agencies at multiple levels of government frequently contacted the social media company. “Federal intelligence and law enforcement reach into Twitter included the Department of Homeland Security, which partnered with security contractors and think tanks to pressure Twitter to moderate content,” Taibbi recounted.
Another release of the Twitter Files showed that the FBI paid Twitter more than $3.4 million for their “legal process response,” apparently referencing the time executives spent coordinating with the agency. There existed “an organized effort by representatives of the intelligence community” aimed at “senior executives at news and social media companies” to discredit “leaked information about Hunter Biden before and after it was published,” according to independent journalist Michael Shellenberger.