Twitter Files: Why Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In, by Matt Taibbi

The latest Twitter files release, from Matt Taibbi at

Once Twitter began rolling over for Congress in 2017, the ending was inevitable: formal surrender to the intelligence community on content moderation.

From the Twitter Files, a story about media, that also sketches the origins of Twitter’s surrender to the intelligence community:


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Matt Taibbi @mtaibbi
1.THREAD: The Twitter Files How Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In

Twitter through the end of August, 2017 was on nobody’s radar as a key actor in the Trump-Russia “foreign influence” scandal.

By the second week in October — six weeks later — the company was being raked over the coals in the press as “one of Russia’s most potent weapons in its efforts to promote Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton,” with Clinton herself adding:

It’s time for Twitter to stop dragging its heels and live up to the fact that its platform is being used as a tool for cyber-warfare.

What happened in those six weeks? Answering that question is a key to understanding the content moderation phenomenon. In this period, crucial in the company’s history, a pattern was established. Threats from Congress came first, then a rush of bad headlines (inspired by leaks from congressional committees), and finally a series of moderation demands coming from the outside. Once the company acceded, the cycle repeated.

The documents lay out the scheme. You can see how the Russian cyber-threat was essentially conjured into being, with political and media pressure serving as the engine inflating something Twitter believed was negligible and uncoordinated to massive dimensions.


The timeline started when a fellow tech titan, Facebook, decided in late August 2017 to suspend 300 accounts with “suspected Russian origin.” The move appeared to irritate some Twitter insiders, as Facebook not only shared data with Twitter, but with the Senate Intelligence Committee, where ranking Democrat and Virginia Senator Mark Warner was on an all-out hunt for Russian meddlers.

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