Platforms remove content at the “explicit direction” of US federal agencies, the Twitter CEO has claimed
All social media platforms work with the US government to censor content, Twitter CEO Elon Musk claimed on Tuesday. Documents released by Musk following his purchase of Twitter showed that the platform colluded with the FBI, CIA, Pentagon and other government agencies to suppress information on elections, Ukraine, and Covid-19.
“*Every* social media company is engaged in heavy censorship, with significant involvement of and, at times, explicit direction of the government,” Musk tweeted, adding that “Google frequently makes links disappear, for example.”
Most people don’t appreciate the significance of the point Matt was making: *Every* social media company is engaged in heavy censorship, with significant involvement of and, at times, explicit direction of the government.Google frequently makes links disappear, for example.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 27, 2022
Musk was referring to internal Twitter communications published by journalist Matt Taibbi with his approval, which suggested that the platform’s senior executives held regular meetings with members of the FBI and CIA, during which the agencies gave them lists of “hundreds of problem accounts” to suspend in the run-up to the 2020 election.
In addition to Twitter, the government was in contact “with virtually every major tech firm,” Taibbi claimed. “These included Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, Reddit, even Pinterest.” CIA agents “nearly always” sat in on meetings of these firms with the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, Taibbi claimed, explaining that although this task force was convened to fight alleged election interference by foreign states, it made “mountains of domestic moderation requests.”
A lawsuit filed earlier this year by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana alleges that officials from no fewer than 12 government agencies met weekly with representatives of Twitter, Facebook, and other Big Tech firms in 2020 to decide which narratives and users to censor, with topics ranging from alleged election interference to Covid-19.
A self-described “free speech absolutist,” Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion in October. He has since released batches of documents shedding light on the platform’s previously opaque censorship policies. Published by several independent journalists, the document dumps have shown how Twitter suppressed information damaging to Joe Biden’s election campaign, colluded with the FBI to remove content the agency wanted hidden, assisted the US military’s online influence campaigns, and censored “anti-Ukraine narratives” on behalf of multiple US intelligence agencies.
The FBI said last week that correspondence between its agents and Twitter staff “show nothing more than examples of our tradition [of] longstanding and ongoing federal government and private sector engagements.”
The White House has refused to answer allegations that the FBI directed Twitter to censor information damaging to Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign.