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Elon Musk Shares How Twitter Handled the Hunter Biden 'Story'

Musk refers to "suppression by Twitter" of story about President Biden's surviving son.

Elon Musk suggested Twitter suppressed information about Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden. 

Musk made the charge in a tweet announcing a live thread Friday afternoon. 

Musk's move comes as he is desperately trying to regain advertiser support. He borrowed more than $13 billion to complete his recent acquisition of the social media company and needs cash flow to make the interest payments. 

But a series of controversies have prompted many advertisers to cut or pause their advertising.  

Musk imposed another ban on Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, this week following his positive comments about Hitler in an interview with conspiracist Alex Jones. 

TheStreet followed the thread, written by journalist Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi), a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Updates can be found below, appearing in reverse chronological order.

8:40 p.m.

Following is the final tweet of the thread

"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."

8:35 p.m. ET

"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," says @mtaibbi.

8:12 p.m. ET

"There are multiple instances in the files of Dorsey intervening to question suspensions and other moderation actions, for accounts across the political spectrum," continues @mtaibbi.

8:06 p.m. ET

While Taibbi was going through Twitter's emails, he found some communication about one of his own articles.

7:56 p.m. ET

"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," writes @mtaibbi.

7:48 p.m. ET

More tweets about Democratic lawmakers' attitudes follow.

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"

7:44 p.m. ET

Now warnings about upcoming hearings on Capitol Hill surface.

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.”

7:40 p.m. ET

The next two tweets show Gadde discussing Twitter policy and Khanna referencing the First Amendment.

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:

7:30 p.m. ET

The tweets continue with more internal messaging.

7:26 p.m. ET

The next tweet includes an exchange at Twitter among staffers expressing their views of the policy.

7:36 p.m. ET

Following is more discussion about the policy and a suggestion about a possible fundamental problem dealing with speech issues at technology companies.

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.

7:23 p.m. ET

The next few tweets discuss the removal of the laptop story because of Twitter's "hacked materials policy" and some reaction within the company to the decision.

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:

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.”

7:20 p.m. ET

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.”

7:18 p.m. ET

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.

7:16 p.m. ET

Tweet 17 shows a New York Post cover with the headline, "Biden Secret E-Mails."

7:14 p.m. ET

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

7:12 p.m. ET

The next tweet alleges political bias among Twitter staffers.

7:09 p.m. ET

Tweet 10 is text only:

"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:"

7:07 p.m. ET

"Celebrities and unknowns alike could be removed or reviewed at the behest of a political party," writes @mtaibbi.

7:04 p.m. ET

The following tweet suggests connected Twitter users, by 2020, were able to request that tweets be deleted and have those requests acted upon.

7:01 p.m. ET

The first seven tweets from @mtaibbai are text-only and are as follows:

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.

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.

6:45 p.m. ET

Elon Musk has tweeted a link to a thread named "The Twitter Files," written by journalist Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi), a contributing editor at Rolling Stone.

6:25 p.m. ET

It's been an hour since Musk suggested Twitter would begin in about 40 minutes. Nothing is posted yet. We're continuing to monitor....

5: 25 p.m. ET

Musk has posted that Twitter is double-checking some facts, so the new estimated start time for live-tweeting is 6 p.m. ET.