The White House on Monday slammed Twitter owner Elon Musk’s release of internal documents detailing the company’s suppression of news reports in 2020 about Hunter Biden’s embarrassing and potentially illegal conduct as a distraction “full of old news.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused the billionaire free-speech advocate of attempting to draw attention away from a rise in hate speech that she claims has flooded the platform since Mr. Musk took over Twitter in October.
“We see this as an interesting coincidence … that Twitter would so haphazardly push this distraction that is full of old news, if you think about it,” she said. “And at the same time, Twitter is facing very real and very serious questions about the rising volume of anger, hate and anti-Semitism on their platform, and how they’re letting it happen.”
Last week, Mr. Musk began releasing a deluge of internal company documents showing what led Twitter to suppress posts sharing the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden‘s infamous laptop just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
The “Twitter Files,” unveiled in a lengthy thread by independent journalist Matt Taibbi, portrayed how Twitter went to extraordinary lengths to censor the laptop story, labeling it “unsafe” and blocking users from sharing links to the story via direct message.
The documents also point to a company run amok with outside groups “petitioning the company to manipulate speech.”
SEE ALSO: Musk slams media for ‘deceiving the American public’ over suppression of Hunter Biden laptop story
“By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine,” Mr. Taibbi tweeted. “One executive would write to another: ‘More to review from the Biden team.’ The reply would come back: ‘Handled.’”
Those requests, he said, came from well-connected people from both sides of the political aisle. Mr. Taibbi said Twitter honored requests from the Trump White House as well as the Biden campaign.
The Biden campaign branded the now-authenticated laptop as Russian disinformation, in response to the Post’s reporting.
That explanation was also peddled in an open letter by more than 50 former U.S. senior intelligence officials and by social media platforms that, acting on FBI warnings about the authenticity of the laptop, began censoring online discussion of it ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Twitter executives decided the content should be blocked because they could not determine whether the materials on the laptop had been hacked. Those materials included details of his questionable overseas business dealings.
The newly released documents have rekindled charges that political censorship by Big Tech helped President Biden win the 2020 election.
It has also added fuel to House Republicans’ plans to tackle collusion to suppress conservative viewpoints.
“Now we need to start looking at Facebook, at Google. These now have become arms of the Democratic Party, arms of the Biden administration,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Mr. Musk, who closed on his $44 billion buyout of the social media platform in October, has vowed to rein in Twitter’s censorship policies, which many conservatives say have been used to police free speech.
President Biden has lamented Mr. Musk’s takeover of the platform and accused Twitter of spreading disinformation.
Liberal media outlets have decried Mr. Musk’s steps to reinstate accounts that had been previously banned on the platform, which they said would spell doomsday for democracy and lead to a rise in hate speech.
Ms. Jean-Pierre said last week that the Biden administration is keeping a close eye on Twitter when asked by a reporter about the platform becoming a “vector of misinformation.”
Mr. Musk has taken steps to ensure that the platform would not become a hate-speech free-for-all. Last week, Mr. Musk suspended Kanye West’s recently reinstated account after the rapper, who now goes by Ye, posted an image of a swastika inside the Star of David.
“At a certain point, you have to say what is incitement to violence,” Mr. Musk said when asked about the suspension on Saturday. “Because that is against the law in the U.S., you can’t just have a ‘let’s go murder someone club,’ that’s not actually legal.”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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