Federal authorities nudged Twitter‘s content moderation leader Yoel Roth to suppress the First Amendment rights of conservative commentators who pushed the idea of fraud during the 2020 presidential election.
The latest Twitter leaks from journalist Matt Taibbi also show the tech giant’s staffers openly discussed banning former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee over a joke.
Taibbi tweeted a screengrab of a message between Twitter executives following a report from the FBI highlighting tweets from former Tippecanoe County, Indiana, official and Republican, John Basham.
Basham alleged between two and 25 percent of ballots by mail were being rejected due to ‘errors.’
He later tweeted: ‘An unexpected number of registered Republicans are returning ballots,’ while alleging the vote by mail had been a Democratic Party plan to gain an advantage in the election.
Former Tippecanoe County, Indiana, official and Republican, John Basham’s tweets alleging election fraud were flagged by Twitter staff
Rather than remove the tweet, Roth opts to place a ‘Learn how voting is safe and secure’ label on the message.
Roth, who quit his role at Twitter last month following Musk’s takeover, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Saturday.
Basham responded to the leak on Twitter saying: ‘The Twitter files show that the FBI violated my First Amendment right by getting Twitter to take action against my tweets!
‘The federal government has no right to determine what I may print or what I may say.’
Musk defended the FBI in a tweet that read: ‘With rare exception, the FBI seems to want to do the right thing.’
He did concede that under Twitter’s former leaders the company ‘operated as s Democratic Party activist machine.’
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s joke about his dead grandparents voting in 2020 was also flagged by Twitter staff
Newly released internal documents suggest that Twitter’s former head of safety Yoel Roth was meeting weekly with the FBI, and show instances of the FBI flagging tweets for deletion
One message mentions ‘a report from the FBI concerning 2 tweets,’ which appeared to relate to false claims about ballot fraud in the November 2020 election
One exchange (left) shows Roth explaining he will miss ‘the FBI and DHS meetings.’ Roth is also seen joking (right) about a mysterious meeting on his calendar, saying it is ‘DEFINITELY not a meeting with the FBI I SWEAR’
In another case, when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joked: ‘Stood in the rain for hour to early vote today. When I got home I filled my stack of mail-in-ballots and then voted the ballots of my deceased parents and grandparents. They vote just like me! #Trump2020.’
On Slack, one Twitter staffer said: ‘Putting this tweet on everyone’s radar. This appears to be a joke but other people might believe it. Can I get your weigh in this?’
Roth says in the conversation: ‘It’s a joke’ but also says that Huckabee is ‘literally admitting in a tweet to a crime.’
He went on: ‘Yeah. I could see us taking action under ‘misleading claims that cause confusion about the established laws, regulations, procedures, and methods of a civic process’ but it’s not one that we could really label in a useful way, so it’s removal (of a stupid and ill-advised joke) or nothing.’
Roth added: ‘I’m maybe inclined not to remove without a report from voting authorities given it’s been a while since he tweeted it and virtually all of the replies I’m seeing are critical/counterspeech.’
The joke from Ex Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee that was scrutinized by Twitter staff
The FBI allegedly reported this tweet by a former local elected official in Indiana, but Twitter apparently determined it was ‘deemed no vio[lation] on numerous occaisions’
While another staffer said: ‘The thrust of the joke seems to be that mail-in ballots are for the fraudulent votes, so I could see an argument for our mail-in voting label, but absent confusion I’d also be inclined to leave the joke alone.’
Taibbi said that on October 8th, 2020, Twitter executives created a Slack chatroom devoted to high-profile moderation actions related to the election, which was then a month away.
He describes this group as a ‘a smaller, more powerful cadre of senior policy execs’ that included Roth and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former head of legal, policy, and trust.
Taibbi claimed the group operated as ‘a high-speed Supreme Court of moderation, issuing content rulings on the fly, often in minutes and based on guesses, gut calls, even Google searches, even in cases involving the President.’
Screenshots show the group debating what to do about Trump’s frequent attacks on absentee voting procedures in the lead-up to the election.
The latest thread also covered the months and weeks leading up to then-President Donald Trump’s ban from Twitter following the Capitol riot, shedding light on the increasingly frenzied internal efforts within the social media site to moderate his baseless claims of election fraud.
Some of the most intriguing documents relate to the apparent cozy relationship between top Twitter executives and the FBI, though Taibbi did not reveal any direct evidence of the agency’s intervention in the decision to ban Trump.
In an undated chat on the messaging app Slack that Taibbi says took place after the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, Roth is seen joking about a mysterious meeting on his calendar, saying it is ‘DEFINITELY not a meeting with the FBI I SWEAR’.
A separate message mentions ‘a report from the FBI concerning 2 tweets,’ which appeared to relate to claims about ballot fraud in the November 2020 election.
The message notes that one of the tweets, claiming mail-in ballots were being ‘shredded’, was adjudicated false, but that the second one claiming up to 25 percent of mail-in ballots were being ‘rejected for errors’ was found to be within Twitter policy.
The documents released Friday primarily related to the months prior to the January 8, 2021 decision to ban Donald Trump from Twitter. Trump is seen on January 6 prior to the Capitol riot
Staffers at Twitter argued that ‘historical context’ and ‘current climate’ should factor into the decision to suspend Trump’s account ahead of his January 8, 2021 ban
Taibbi said the new release of files was part of a three-part series about the events surrounding Trump’s January 2021 ban from Twitter, which Musk lifted last month after buying the company.
Prior to the ban, days after the Capitol riot, the internal document also show staffers at the company argued that ‘historical context’ and ‘current climate’ should factor into the decision.
One message from an unidentified Twitter staffer appears to acknowledge the historic nature of the ban, asking: ‘Is this the first head of state ever to be suspended?’
‘The world knows much of the story of what happened between riots at the Capitol on January 6th, and the removal of President Donald Trump from Twitter on January 8th,’ Taibbi wrote.
‘We’ll show you what hasn’t been revealed: the erosion of standards within the company in months before J6, decisions by high-ranking executives to violate their own policies, and more, against the backdrop of ongoing, documented interaction with federal agencies,’ he promised.
One in the group exchange also hints at a broader role of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in Twitter’s approach to moderating misinformation.
An unidentified staffer is seen asking whether Twitter should publicly describe its approach to misinformation as relying on machine learning, human review, and ‘partnerships with outside experts.’
Nick Pickles, Twitter’s senior director of global public policy strategy, development and partnerships, refers to partnerships with the FBI/DHS in one exchange
One screenshot showed a Twitter staffer acknowledging the historic nature of Trump’s ban
Nick Pickles, Twitter’s senior director of global public policy strategy, development and partnerships, is seen responding: ‘can we just say ‘partnerships”.
He then adds: ‘not sure we’d describe the FBI/DHS as experts, or some NGOs that aren’t academic.’
Taibbi said that his posts on Friday would primarily cover the period between the 2020 election and January 6, to be followed by additional publications of internal Twitter documents by Michael Shellenberger on Saturday and Bari Weiss on Sunday.
Shellenberger is an author who focuses on contrarian views on climate change, and Weiss is an independent journalist who runs the Substack newsletter Common Sense, which she recently rebranded as The Free Press.
Earlier on Friday, responding to prior releases of internal Twitter files, the White House again insisted President Joe Biden had no involvement in Twitter’s decisions to censor conservative voices or suppress stories on his son’s laptop prior to his election.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also denied that the administration had any direct contact with former FBI agent and Twitter general counsel Jim Baker over the moderation of stories.
Earlier this week Musk fired Baker, who was serving as a top Twitter lawyer, over his ‘possible’ role in suppressing the Hunter Biden story in October 2020.
During her daily briefing Friday press secretary Jean-Pierre was asked whether the Biden team had made any contact with Baker regarding content moderation decisions.
‘It’s up to private companies to make these types of decisions. We were not involved, I can say that we were not involved,’ she said.
Earlier this week Jean-Pierre said it is ‘not healthy’ for Twitter to be releasing internal communications that showed Twitter suppressed the bombshell laptop reporting that showed Hunter Biden trading on his last name for cash.
It follows the release of two Twitter files over the last two weeks, including revelations published by Weiss on Wednesday night that executives suppressed conservative accounts even if they didn’t violate policy and certain trending topics.
The first set of Twitter Files, dropped in a thread on the social media platform by Taibbi, showed that the Biden campaign did ask Twitter to remove some nude photos and videos Hunter had left on his laptop that were being circulated.
Internal communications indicate the Biden campaign had requested Twitter remove the post that violated its non-consensual nudity policy which prohibits ‘images or videos that are taken in an intimate setting and not intended for public distribution.’
The Trump White House had also contacted Twitter asking to have the company review or remove some tweets, Taibbi claimed without offering additional details.