Still More Twitter Ethics: Musk’s Cynical Poll And Another”Twitter Files” Summary

Ugh. The 6th installment of the “Twitter Files,” this one tweeted out by Matt Taibbi (your host just had to copy and paste 31 damn tweets together to be readable, always what I love doing before a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. This might have something to do with why I just spilled orange juice on my modem…You’re welcome.). It is the most alarming of the installments so far. I can’t wait to read how the Washington Post and the other complicity proto-totalitarians in the news media try to spin this one as a “nothingburger.” It is a given that the main methodolgy will involve simply not reporting on it, as has been the primary response to the earlier “Twitter Files” revelations via substack’s rebel journalists. Let’s see: I haven’t checked today’s digital Times yet: Any mention?….

NO!

The only mentions of Twitter involve Musk’s suspension of journalists (BAD Musk!) discussed here yesterday. The embargo on the Twitter revelations are at least as sinister and outrageous as the Hunter Biden laptop media/social media conspiracy; I confess that I’m surprised at the audacity of the Times and the rest (almost everyone but Fox News and the New York Post, and the conservative websites. Well, the ethics blogs, of course)

A few observations before you commence your assignment as an informed citizen:

  • Musk cagily backtracked on the suspensions using the “poll” devise he employed to justify restoring Trump’s tweeting privileges. He was facing threats by the EU (it was going to be expensive and time-consuming to tell the Europeans “bite me,” though that’s what they deserved and it may have occured to him that Ethics Alarms was right: the banning of so many progressive reporters looked like payback even if it were justifiable. Musk can’t run Twitter by poll, though, if he is truly devoted to promoting free and open public discourse.
  • The past seven years (or more) make the conclusion unavoidable that the FBI is untrustworthy, partisan, corrupt,dangerous, and a threat to undermine the Republic. That is not a news that easy to process or accept, but it can’t be ignored or shrugged off any more.
  • In a complete reversal of positions from what was routine in my youth, Republicans are targeting the FBI for criticism and investigation while Democrats appear to be saying by their silence, “What’s the big deal?” The Republican House Judiciary Committee account tweeted, “Does anyone still trust the FBI?” (“republicans pounce!”)  Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo), speculated that  the FBI’s alleged interactions with Twitter could suggest they were working with Google and Facebook as well. Gee, yah think?

  • Again, because it can’t be over-stated, the mainstream media is deliberately trying to keep the public in the dark about all of it.
  • But the major effect of this seems to be only the further erosion of public trust in the news media. The truth is out there, as Mulder and Scully would say, and it’s sinking in. The December Harvard CAPS / Harris Poll  finds that nearly two-thirds of voters believe Twitter shadow-banned users and engaged in political censorship during the 2020 election. Seventy percent of voters want new national laws protecting users from corporate censorship.
  • What is described below is, in fact, the U.S. government violating the First Amendment by proxy:

THREAD: The Twitter Files, Part Six TWITTER, THE FBI SUBSIDIARY

The #TwitterFiles are revealing more every day about how the government collects, analyzes, and flags your social media content.Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive, as if it were a subsidiary.Between January 2020 and November 2022, there were over 150 emails between the FBI and former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth. Some are mundane, like San Francisco agent Elvis Chan wishing Roth a Happy New Year along with a reminder to attend “our quarterly call next week.” Others are requests for information into Twitter users related to active investigations. But a surprisingly high number are requests by the FBI for Twitter to take action on election misinformation, even involving joke tweets from low-follower accounts. The FBI’s social media-focused task force, known as FTIF, created in the wake of the 2016 election, swelled to 80 agents and corresponded with Twitter to identify alleged foreign influence and election tampering of all kinds. 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. It’s no secret the government analyzes bulk data for all sorts of purposes, everything from tracking terror suspects to making economic forecasts. The #TwitterFiles show something new: agencies like the FBI and DHS regularly sending social media content to Twitter through multiple entry points, pre-flagged for moderation. What stands out is the sheer quantity of reports from the government.

Some are aggregated from public hotlines: [Attachment] An unanswered question: do agencies like FBI and DHS do in-house flagging work themselves, or farm it out? “You have to prove to me that inside the fucking government you can do any kind of massive data or AI search,” says one former intelligence officer. “HELLO TWITTER CONTACTS”: The master-canine quality of the FBI’s relationship to Twitter comes through in this November 2022 email, in which “FBI San Francisco is notifying you” it wants action on four accounts: [Attachment] Twitter personnel in that case went on to look for reasons to suspend all four accounts, including @fromma , whose tweets are almost all jokes (see sample below), including his “civic misinformation” of Nov. 8.

Just to show the FBI can be hyper-intrusive in both directions, they also asked Twitter to review a blue-leaning account for a different joke, except here it was even more obvious that  @clairefosterPHD , who kids a lot, was kidding: “Anyone who cannot discern obvious satire from reality has no place making decisions for others or working for the feds,” said @ClaireFosterPHD, when told about the flagging. Of the six accounts mentioned in the previous two emails, all but two –  @ClaireFosterPHD and @FromMa– were suspended.

In an internal email from November 5, 2022, the FBI’s National Election Command Post, which compiles and sends on complaints, sent the SF field office a long list of accounts that “may warrant additional action”: [Attachment] Twitter then replied with its list of actions taken. Note mercy shown to actor Billy Baldwin: Many of the above accounts were satirical in nature, nearly all (with the exceptions of Baldwin and  @RSBNetwork) were relatively low engagement, and some were suspended, most with a generic, “Thanks, Twitter” letter: When told of the FBI flagging, @Lexitollah replied: “My thoughts initially include 1. Seems like prima facie 1A violation 2. Holy cow, me, an account with the reach of an amoeba 3. What else are they looking at?” “I can’t believe the FBI is policing jokes on Twitter. That’s crazy,” said @Tiberius444.

The Twitter exec writes she explicitly asked if there were “impediments” to the sharing of classified information “with industry.” The answer? “FBI was adamant no impediments to sharing exist.” This passage underscores the unique one-big-happy-family vibe between Twitter and the FBI. With what other firm would the FBI blithely agree to “no impediments” to classified information? At the bottom of that letter, she lists a series of “escalations” apparently raised at the meeting, which were already “handled.” About one, she writes: “Flagged a specific Tweet on Illinois use of modems to transmit election results in possible violation of the civic integrity policy (except they do use that tech in limited circumstances).” Another internal letter from January, 2021 shows Twitter execs processing an FBI list of “possible violative content” tweets: .Here, too, most tweets contained the same, “Get out there and vote Wednesday!” trope and had low engagement. This is what the FBI spends its time on: [Attachment]

In this March, 2021 email, an FBI liaison thanks a senior Twitter exec for the chance to speak to “you and the team,” then delivers a packet of “products”: [Attachment]

14 thoughts on “Still More Twitter Ethics: Musk’s Cynical Poll And Another”Twitter Files” Summary

  1. “Haunter Biden” may be your most apt and insightful typo ever, given the way his presence has lingered malevolently over his father’s presidency like an unsettled spirit. The Ghost of Corruption Past.

  2. your host just had to copy and paste 31 damn tweets together to be readable, always what I love doing before a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning.

    Try the @unrollhelper next time.

  3. Jack wrote:

    Musk can’t run Twitter by poll, though, if he is truly devoted to promoting free and open public discourse.

    No, you’re right about that. It needs to stop. The optics are very poor to anyone not invested in Twitter at the expense of rational thought.

    The past seven years (or more) make the conclusion unavoidable that the FBI is untrustworthy, partisan, corrupt,dangerous, and a threat to undermine the Republic. That is not a news that easy to process or accept, but it can’t be ignored or shrugged off any more

    The FBI has always been a problematic venture. It was corrupt nearly from birth, and we are surprised that it somehow has changed its spots over the decades? Sure, there have been a few stretches where it was less corrupt than at others, but at its core, it is a functioning federal bureaucracy with a law enforcement component, largely governed by political partisans.

    That partisanship has clearly been allowed to filter down to at least middle management and even the rank-and-file. Throw in the “You’re either with me or against me” politics of the social media age, and how can you not have a corrupt catastrophe?

    Disbanding the FBI root and branch would be a huge public service.

    In a complete reversal of positions from what was routine in my youth, Republicans are targeting the FBI for criticism and investigation while Democrats appear to be saying by their silence, “What’s the big deal?”

    This is true of so many things now, I’ve lost count. Remember when the Republicans (driven by the religious right) were the pro-censorship party? “You become what you hate” has once again proven true. It’s batting 1.000, in fact.

    Again, because it can’t be over-stated, the mainstream media is deliberately trying to keep the public in the dark about all of it.

    Because they have become so invested in their moral preening and certitude, they can hardly do anything else. This has the potential, if covered fairly, to expose the media’s prior and ongoing corruption in ways that are an existential threat. The media literally cannot do a 180 and cover this story closely without damaging both their business and political interests. So they are doing what we all do when facing such a threat — ignoring it. Making that worse, they are actually gaslighting the public to try to tamp down interest. Unethical? Yep, but almost inevitable.

    Even though you rightly point out this whole Twitter affair is eroding public trust in the media, they understand they have a built-in floor that will always be just enough to keep them afloat if they downsize enough. I call to your attention the WaPo layoffs of this week as factual support for this comment.

    What is described below is, in fact, the U.S. government violating the First Amendment by proxy:

    That’s exactly what it is. But let’s be honest: what can be done? The federal judiciary is not going to be able to remedy this. Between protestations of national security and the fact that crafting a remedy that can be broadly applied without violating the separation of powers, I don’t see much that can be done without a public will to correct it. Will that happen? Maybe, but the cynic in me is not holding his/her/xe/xir breath.

    I’m glad to see all this come to light. It embarrasses the media, who deserves it manifestly. It also embarrasses the Leftists at Twitter and exposes the incestuous relationship between government and Big Tech, especially social media. Seeing Leftist media types, who cheered roundly when their opponents were kicked off Twitter suffer the same fate for conduct that used to be their exclusive right is blessed schadenfreude.

    It would also embarrass the FBI and other involved federal agencies if they were capable of embarrassment, which we know by now they are absolutely not. The will reject this as violative of anything, and studiously ignore or gaslight as necessary to preserve it. They may even threaten Musk with retribution — if nothing else, Merrick Garland has proven he has absolutely no compunction about using law enforcement to enforce or even drive political policy and stretch the law into a pretzel to punish lawful actions that run afoul of ideology.

    They say sunlight is the best disinfectant, but that can only be true if someone, Sauron-like, isn’t sending a plume of smoke and gas to blot it out and support the infection.

    Sorry about this lengthy screed. Catharsis is it’s own reward, I guess. 🙂

  4. There is definitely probable cause that the FBI agents who did this committed crimes.

    https://ethicsalarms.com/2022/12/11/part-4-of-the-twitter-election-manipulation-papers-or-as-the-stomach-turns/#comment-826784

    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.”

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