More than two-thirds of voters think the recent revelations exposed in Elon Musk’s “Twitter Files” warrant further investigation by Congress, according to a new poll that shows concerns about censorship of conservative voices on social media extend far beyond the Republican base.
Mr. Musk’s steady drip of internal documents since taking over Twitter has revealed the extent to which the platform worked with the Biden campaign and federal agencies to moderate speech. It exposed Twitter‘s liberal bent in censoring conservative viewpoints and suppressing news stories that linked then-candidate Joseph R. Biden to his son Hunter’s eyebrow-raising business foreign business deals.
Despite those revelations going largely ignored by liberal-leaning legacy new outlets, voters across the political spectrum say the conduct exposed in the Twitter Files likely crossed the line.
A recent survey by the Harvard Center for American Political Studies and Harris Insights & Analytics found that 71% of Republicans, 65% of Democrats and 68% of independents think Congress and the FBI should thoroughly investigate potential civil and First Amendment violations by Twitter.
The Twitter Files revealed the close coordination between social media companies and federal officials to moderate content, including requests by the FBI to censor individual posts and ban certain users.
In one internal Slack exchange disclosed by Matt Taibbi, one of several independent journalists given access to Mr. Musk’s vault, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, wrote that he met with federal officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Twitter’s censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
SEE ALSO: Latest ‘Twitter Files’ reveal the platform helped the Pentagon’s covert information operations
During those meetings, Twitter executives were alerted to rumors that Hunter Biden would be the target of a “hack and leak operation,” a warning which, in part, led social media platforms to suppress The New York Post’s October 2020 story exposing Mr. Biden’s links to his son’s embarrassing and potentially illegal business ventures. It refuted Mr. Biden’s claims that he didn’t know about and wasn’t involved in his son’s overseas ventures.
The FBI took possession of the laptop in December 2019, 10 months before the newspaper published materials from the computer, raising questions as to whether the bureau sought to discredit materials they had already authenticated.
The Harvard-Harris poll found that 74% of voters think Twitter employees should be criminally prosecuted if they were found to be working with federal officials to suppress content in violation of people’s First Amendment rights. That figure includes 82% of Republicans, 69% of Democrats and 73% of independents.
Most voters, 64%, also think Twitter “engaged in political censorship” during the 2020 election. That majority includes 59% of Democrats.
A majority of voters, 61%, say Twitter’s decision to ban tweets about the Hunter Biden laptop specifically was based on political bias, including nearly half, or 48%, of Democrats surveyed in the Harvard-Harris poll.
A plurality, 48%, of voters say Twitter was specifically trying to help Mr. Biden during the 2020 election while 25% say Twitter employees were in former President Donald Trump’s corner and 28% say Twitter employees were even-handed.
Forty percent of Democrats said Twitter employees wanted to help Mr. Biden.
Voters felt particularly strongly about perceived political censorship on the part of James Baker, Twitter’s top lawyer during the 2020 election who joined the company after working for years as a lawyer for the FBI.
While serving in the FBI, Mr. Baker was a key facilitator of the FBI’s much-criticized investigation into whether former President Donald Trump colluded with Russia ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Ahead of the 2020 election, according to Twitter Files documents, the FBI set up top-secret briefings with Mr. Baker who would later push Twitter to block reports that threatened then-candidate Biden.
Internal emails also revealed that amid the chaos at Twitter on the day The New York Post published the story, Mr. Baker arranged a phone call with Matthew J. Perry from the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel.
An overwhelming majority of Americans — 76% — said Mr. Baker “was acting out of politics in banning information about the Hunter Biden laptop.”
That sentiment spans the political spectrum, with 85% of Republicans, 70% of Democrats and 73% of independents saying Mr. Baker was politically motivated.
And beyond Twitter’s involvement in the 2020 election, 69% of those polled said Twitter employees were working with government officials to “censor Tweets that questioned COVID and other policies.” That figure includes 78% of Republicans, 67% of Democrats and 61% of independents.
Sixty-eight percent of respondents said such behavior, if true, would be a violation of the First Amendment. That figure includes 77% of Republicans, 62% of Democrats and 66% of independents.
The results of the Harvard-Harris poll, which polled 1,851 registered voters between Dec. 14-15, reflect a broad awareness of the revelations among voters from all political persuasions despite the series of Twitter Files being mostly ignored by left-leaning news outlets.
A Media Research Center analysis found that the Twitter Files made up less than 0.5% of coverage on CNN and MSNBC, although the cable channels covered other stories related to Twitter.
The study found that MSNBC aired close to two hours of content involving Twitter from Dec. 2 to Dec. 13 and more than 80% of its reports had no reference to the Twitter Files.
“Since that study, we’ve seen that NPR and others have issued these conclusory comments that there is no story here,” Media Research Center Vice President Dan Schneider told The Washington Times. “This is how the left-wing media in America always operates.”
He said left-leaning outlets avoid the Twitter Files because they are part of the story. “They either know too much and don’t want to have to backpedal on their false reporting in the past, or else they don’t want to implicate themselves in the wrongdoing that is now obvious for everybody to see,” he said.
He said Americans are beginning to see the news media “acting as political operatives, not as reporters.”
The Harvard-Harris poll also found that just 40% of voters think the mainstream media is fair and unbiased. The poll also found that 63% of respondents think the media supports political censorship on social media.
Vanessa Otero, the founder and CEO of Ad Fontes media, the quantitative media analysis company behind the Media Bias Chart, said the Twitter Files, and Twitter itself, has certainly become one of many partisan issues in the U.S.
Still, Ms. Otero, who is a lawyer by training, said there are elements of the Twitter Files disclosures that cross partisan lines.
The suppression of the Hunter Biden story ahead of the 2020 election, a key focus of the Twitter Files releases, has an obvious appeal for Republicans, she said. But she added that the left traditionally harbors skepticism of intelligence and government agencies.
Ethics surrounding the freedom of speech and First Amendment principles are shared strongly across partisan lines, she said.
“So you sort of have this blending,” she said. “Each side has a reason to say ‘what the FBI and Twitter are doing together doesn’t feel right.”
She said that crossover shakes out in polling questions, such as whether Congress should look into the disclosures further.
“That is a function of the fact that this is not legislated,” she said. “There needs to be more legislation about what social media companies and the government can and can’t do regarding content moderation.”
A vast majority of voters agree.
Seventy percent of respondents to the Harvard-Harris poll said they support new national laws protecting the internet and social media users from social censorship. That figure includes 69% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats and 71% of independents.
• Joseph Clark can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.
Please read our comment policy before commenting.