Part 4 Of The Twitter Election Manipulation Papers, Or “As The Stomach Turns”

Why have I used the old Carol Burnett Show soap opera satire to describe such a serious issue? What we are witnessing, as discussed in the previous post, is literally sickening (it has made my stomach turn for the past week), and our choices are to be furious, terrified, depressed, or mordantly amused. I’m always at my best when my sense of humor is working. Hence “As the Stomach Turns.”

Coming up is author Michael Shellenberger’s tweet stream continuing Twitter’s record of sabotaging speech and democracy. My god, it is nauseating. These are children; power-drunk, arrogant, irresponsible juvenile activists who talked themselves into violating the ethical principles of fairness, honesty, competence, and civic responsibility. They were so biased they were stupid, and so stupid they couldn’t tell they were biased.

It is terrifying that people like this, across social media, Big Tech and the mainstream media presume to decide what the American people get to read, see and hear, and equally terrifying that so many with power and influence are now attempting to justify it, minimize it, deny it, or, worst of all, continue it. Anyone who does any of these things or who supports those support them need to be recognized as having virtual “T’s” tattooed as scarlet letters on their foreheads, and treated accordingly: condemned, mocked, neutralized and shunned. The “T” stands for totalitarianism enabler. An “E” for “enabler” or “enemy of the people” would also work. Come to think of it, so would the more literary “A”…for “Asshole.”

What has been revealed in the four installments of Twitter records released by Elon Musk so far…and how I wish they had been released in readable form so that I, among others, didn’t have to spend unbillable time making it so…is that the interference with the 2020 election as well as the manipulation of political discourse before and after it was far worse, and far more sinister, than the Russian fake news inflicted on Facebook (and believed by only the dimmest of bulbs who happened to see it) that led Hilary Clinton to claim her defeat in 2016 was illegitimate. Blocking the opinions and dissent of one side of the national political debate while applying double standards to “amplify” favored progressive claims (many of which were as false as the Russian fake news) while burying, “shadow banning” and otherwise hamstringing conservatives is a far more powerful and destructive practice. And that is what Democrats and the mainstream media (and, I bet, many of your friend and relatives) are defending. Now we know just how corrupt they are. We know just how much freedom of speech, expression, dissent and political discourse as well as public information and understanding has been and is under attack.

America finds itself in this existential fix because its citizens were apathetic, blind and in denial as one institution and sector after another—education, academia, law, journalism, social media, the scientific community, entertainment, and the Democratic Party itself— were gradually captured and corrupted by ruthless ideologues. They didn’t even try to hide it either. The nation has no more excuses for pretending all is well. The Twitter scandal is not an isolated example of ethics rot, but a case study to be heeded and acted upon. Quickly…

Finally, here is Part 4, from Michael Shellenberger’s Twitter account. The earlier installments are here, here, and here.

The Removal of Donald Trump: January 7 As the pressure builds, Twitter executives build the case for a permanent ban…On Jan 7, senior Twitter execs: – create justifications to ban Trump – seek a change of policy for Trump alone, distinct from other political leaders – express no concern for the free speech or democracy implications of a ban. For years, Twitter had resisted calls to ban Trump. “Blocking a world leader from Twitter,” it wrote in 2018, “would hide important info… [and] hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”  But after the events of Jan 6, the internal and external pressure on Twitter CEO [Jack Dorsey] grows. Former First Lady @michelleobama, tech journalist @karaswisher, @ADL, high-tech VC @ChrisSacca , and many others, publicly call on Twitter to permanently ban Trump.Dorsey was on vacation in French Polynesia the week of January 4-8, 2021. He phoned into meetings but also delegated much of the handling of the situation to senior execs @yoyoel, Twitter’s Global Head of Trust and Safety, and @vijaya, Head of Legal, Policy, & Trust.

As context, it’s important to understand that Twitter’s staff & senior execs were overwhelmingly progressive. In 2018, 2020, and 2022, 96%, 98%, & 99% of Twitter staff’s political donations went to Democrats. n 2017, Roth tweeted that there were “ACTUAL NAZIS IN THE WHITE HOUSE.” In April 2022, Roth told a colleague that his goal “is to drive change in the world,” which is why he decided not to become an academic. On January 7,Dorsey emails employees saying Twitter needs to remain consistent in its policies, including the right of users to return to Twitter after a temporary suspension After, Roth reassures an employee that “people who care about this… aren’t happy with where we are.” Around 11:30 am PT, Roth DMs his colleagues with news that he is excited to share. “GUESS WHAT,” he writes. “Jack just approved repeat offender for civic integrity.” The new approach would create a system where five violations (“strikes”) would result in permanent suspension. The exchange between Roth and his colleagues makes clear that they had been pushing Dorsey for greater restrictions on the speech Twitter allows around elections. The colleague wants to know if the decision means Trump can finally be banned. The person asks, “does the incitement to violence aspect change that calculus?” Roth says it doesn’t. “Trump continues to just have his one strike (remaining).” Roth’s colleague’s query about “incitement to violence” heavily foreshadows what will happen the following day. On January 8, Twitter announces a permanent ban on Trump due to the “risk of further incitement of violence.”

On J8, Twitter says its ban is based on “specifically how [Trump’s tweets] are being received & interpreted.” But in 2019, Twitter said it did “not attempt to determine all potential interpretations of the content or its intent.”

The *only* serious concern we found expressed within Twitter over the implications for free speech and democracy of banning Trump came from a junior person in the organization. It was tucked away in a lower-level Slack channel known as “site-integrity-auto.” “This might be an unpopular opinion but one off ad hoc decisions like this that don’t appear rooted in policy are imho a slippery slope… This now appears to be a fiat by an online platform CEO with a global presence that can gatekeep speech for the entire world…” Twitter employees use the term “one off” frequently in their Slack discussions. Its frequent use reveals significant employee discretion over when and whether to apply warning labels on tweets and “strikes” on users. [Shellenberger then attaches examples.] Recall from #TwitterFiles2 by@bariweissthat, according to Twitter staff, “We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do.” Twitter employees recognize the difference between their own politics & Twitter’s Terms of Service (TOS), but they also engage in complex interpretations of content in order to stamp out prohibited tweets, as a series of exchanges over the “#stopthesteal” hashtag reveal. Roth immediately DMs a colleague to ask that they add “stopthesteal” & [QAnon conspiracy term] “kraken” to a blacklist of terms to be deamplified. Roth’s colleague objects that blacklisting “stopthesteal” risks “deamplifying counterspeech” that validates the election. Indeed, notes Roth’s colleague, “a quick search of top stop the steal tweets and they’re counterspeech” But they quickly come up with a solution: “deamplify accounts with stopthesteal in the name/profile” since “those are not affiliated with counterspeech.” But it turns out that even blacklisting “kraken” is less straightforward than they thought. That’s because kraken, in addition to being a QAnon conspiracy theory based on the mythical Norwegian sea monster, is also the name of a cryptocurrency exchange, and was thus “allowlisted.”

Employees struggle with whether to punish users who share screenshots of Trump’s deleted J6 tweets “we should bounce these tweets with a strike given the screen shot violates the policy” “they are criticising Trump, so I am bit hesitant with applying strike to this user.” What if a user dislikes Trump *and* objects to Twitter’s censorship? The tweet still gets deleted. But since the *intention* is not to deny the election result, no punishing strike is applied. “if there are instances where the intent is unclear please feel free to raise.”

Around noon, a confused senior executive in advertising sales sends a DM to Roth. Sales exec: “jack says: ‘we will permanently suspend [Trump] if our policies are violated after a 12 hour account lock’… what policies is jack talking about?” Roth: “*ANY* policy violation”

What happens next is essential to understanding how Twitter justified banning Trump. Sales exec: “are we dropping the public interest [policy] now…” Roth, six hours later: “In this specific case, we’re changing our public interest approach for his account…”

The ad exec is referring to Twitter’s policy of “Public-interest exceptions,” which allows the content of elected officials, even if it violates Twitter rules, “if it directly contributes to understanding or discussion of a matter of public concern”

Roth pushes for a permanent suspension of Rep. Matt Gaetz even though it “doesn’t quite fit anywhere (duh)” It’s a kind of test case for the rationale for banning Trump. “I’m trying to talk [Twitter’s] safety [team] into… removal as a conspiracy that incites violence.”

Around 2:30, comms execs DM Roth to say they don’t want to make a big deal of the QAnon ban to the media because they fear “if we push this it looks we’re trying to offer up something in place of the thing everyone wants,” meaning a Trump ban. That evening, a Twitter engineer DMs to Roth to say, “I feel a lot of debates around exceptions stem from the fact that Trump’s account is not technically different from anybody else’ and yet treated differently due to his personal status, without corresponding _Twitter rules_..” Roth’s response hints at how Twitter would justify deviating from its longstanding policy. “To put a different spin on it: policy is one part of the system of how Twitter works… we ran into the world changing faster than we were able to either adapt the product or the policy.”

The evening of January 7, the same junior employee who expressed an “unpopular opinion” about “ad hoc decisions… that don’t appear rooted in policy,” speaks up one last time before the end of the day. “This might be an unpopular opinion but one off ad hoc decisions like this that don’t appear rooted in policy are imho a slippery slope… This now appears to be a fiat by an online platform CEO with a global presence that can gatekeep speech for the entire world…”

Earlier that day, the employee wrote, “My concern is specifically surrounding the unarticulated logic of the decision by FB. That space fills with the idea (conspiracy theory?) that all… internet moguls… sit around like kings casually deciding what people can and cannot see.” The employee notes, later in the day, “And Will Oremus noticed the inconsistency too…,” linking to an article for OneZero at Medium called, “Facebook Chucked Its Own Rulebook to Ban Trump.” “The underlying problem,” writes@WillOremus, is that “the dominant platforms have always been loath to own up to their subjectivity, because it highlights the extraordinary, unfettered power they wield over the global public square and places the responsibility for that power on their own shoulders… So they hide behind an ever-changing rulebook, alternately pointing to it when it’s convenient and shoving it under the nearest rug when it isn’t.”…

“Facebook’s suspension of Trump now puts Twitter in an awkward position. If Trump does indeed return to Twitter, the pressure on Twitter will ramp up to find a pretext on which to ban him as well.” Indeed. And as@bariweiss will show tomorrow, that’s exactly what happened. /END




13 thoughts on “Part 4 Of The Twitter Election Manipulation Papers, Or “As The Stomach Turns”

  1. Gotta love the titles at Twitter. They are right out of a Mike Myers movie:

    Global Head of Trust and Safety, which is different from Head of Legal, Policy and Trust.

    Should be Global Head of Deceit and Danger and Head of Unethical but Legal, No Policies and Mistrust.

    • No wonder so many people tried everything the could to prevent Musk closing the acquisition. And no wonder so many senior employees took off like rats abandoning the proverbial ship.

  2. None of this means anything to the Deranged. They argue that Musk is releasing edited data to handpicked people – presumably traitors to the cause- yadda yadda.

  3. Thanks, Mr Marshall. Reading this on Twitter is a challenge that you’ve taken upon yourself to make it more intelligible for us. There is, however, something visceral in seeing the emails, slacks, and screenshots. If I hadn’t read the first three dumps on Twitter, I’d be inclined to think you were exaggerating just how horrible things really are.
    Depending upon what your definition of ‘are’ is.


    18 U.S. Code § 595 – Interference by administrative employees of Federal, State, or Territorial Governments

    “Whoever, being a person employed in any administrative position by the United States, or by any department or agency thereof, or by the District of Columbia or any agency or instrumentality thereof, or by any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States, or any political subdivision, municipality, or agency thereof, or agency of such political subdivision or municipality (including any corporation owned or controlled by any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States or by any such political subdivision, municipality, or agency), in connection with any activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States, or any department or agency thereof, uses his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

    the FBI agents who did this committed crimes.

    They should be brought before military tribunals, tried, and upon conviction, executed.

  5. “There is no Hunter Biden laptop story. Okay, there was, but we didn’t bury it–everyone knew about it. Okay, we did bury it, but it didn’t affect the election since it was a nothingburger. And anyway, it was very important that Trump didn’t win.”

    That’s some serious kettle logic right there. “In the first place, the kettle was broken when I borrowed it, and in the second place it was in perfectly good condition when I brought it back, and in the third place I didn’t borrow the kettle in the first place!”

  6. The one conclusion to draw from all of this: it PAYS, and pays quite well, to own and control the means of communication. I should have seen this coming 20 years ago when I was on several artist-devoted websites (most of which have now been superseded by facebook and instagram pages and are now of limited utility). The leaders and creators of this site as often as not reveled in the use of their power to push messages that put the artist in a positive light, and suppressed and even banned those critical, even if the criticism was reasonably debatable or had a factual or other basis. I have concluded it was never really about actual discussion, it was about becoming a propaganda arm of the artist’s establishment.

    That’s all well and good when it’s just about whether or not one small site chooses to silence critical fans of a musician or group in favor of ass-kissers and “he’s/she’s/they’re the greatest!” posts, especially when those banned can just take to social media and say what they were going to say there. It’s another when something like Twitter or Facebook becomes essentially one big site with the ability to silence, bury, or ban whoever those in charge damn well please, and then uses that power to influence national politics. As it is that’s putting too much power in the hands of too few organizations and just trusting them not to abuse it. Now we know at least one organization DID abuse it, with historical consequences that may be felt and felt very hard down the line. What’s more, most likely they are going to be allowed to continue to abuse it, since it benefits one political party, which has demonstrated repeatedly that it isn’t interested in anything other than getting in power and staying in power.

    The question now isn’t what’s happening. It’s “what if anything can be done about this?” I’m open to suggestions.

  7. “America finds itself in this existential fix because its citizens were apathetic, blind and in denial … The nation has no more excuses for pretending all is well.”

    It is my experience that “ignorant” is also a key component. The manipulation of information is so widespread and affective that many left-leaning people are not even aware of key problems. They simply do not know what they do not know. Their traditional sources of news keep them ignorant, as is their design.

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