In something reminiscent of the peak Trump years on Twitter, Elon Musk set the world on fire with a single Tweet. He announced, "What really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter will be published on Twitter at 5pm ET!" In short order, independent journalist Matt Taibbi started a thread releasing internal emails from Twitter related to the Hunter Biden decision.
We learned from the "Twitter Files" that political parties targeted individual tweets for deletion. Twitter would get an email from the Biden, Trump, or the Democratic National Committee and delete the "offending" tweets.
On the Hunter Biden story, Twitter's internal emails showed them blocking the actual report. Further, they locked the New York Post and Kayleigh McEnany's accounts. Twitter claimed this was because the news story violated their "hacked materials" policy. But there was no proof. There would never be any evidence of that, either.
Matt Taibbi's sources said, "They just freelanced it ... Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn't going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it." In other email chains, other employees said they were "struggling" to understand the logic of Twitter's decision. The higher-ups decided to roll with it and not reverse.
Twitter's decision caused Democratic Representative Ro Khanna to email Twitter a warning. Rep. Khanna said there was significant "backlash" in Congress over Twitter censoring the New York Post. After Twitter's team tried to redirect the conversation, Rep. Khanna hit back, saying:
[T]his seems a violation of the 1st Amendment principles. If there is a hack of classified information or other information that could expose a serious war crime and the NYT was to publish it, I think the NYT should have that right. A journalist should not be held accountable for the illegal actions of ht resource unless they actively aided the hack. So to restrict the distribution of that material, especially regarding a Presidential candidate, seems not in the keeping of the principles of NYT v Sullivan.
I say this as a total Biden partisan and convinced he didn't do anything wrong. But the story has now become more about the censorship than relatively innocuous emails and it's become a bigger deal than it could have been.
The point is elementary. It's not the job of websites like Twitter to police what news people get or the stories that journalists write. It's astonishing we're even having this conversation. Twitter doesn't have anyone capable of fact-checking anything. The New York Post is an older institution in America than the New York Times.
Rep. Khanna is right -- what Twitter did does violate the principles of free speech. What Twitter did wasn't a violation of law, but it did run afoul of the culture of free speech that we want to have in the United States.
When political hacks like David French write in the Atlantic that Elon Musk doesn't understand the First Amendment, he's fighting a straw-man. The argument is not that there was a violation of First Amendment law. The issue is that Twitter's censorship destroys the culture of free speech. That matters, which David French understood at one point.
The Twitter files reveal that Matt Taibbi was correct about the shift among liberals. Taibbi wrote, "the American left has lost its mind. It's become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness."
Here's how I know Big Tech leftists fit that description. I, a conservative, am sitting here agreeing with Matt Taibbi, a liberal. And we're both agreeing with the analysis of a Democratic Representative. That Democrat made similar points to Donald Trump and any number of Republicans. And we're getting this moment because Elon Musk decided to buy Twitter and reveal everything to the world.
There is clear bipartisan agreement that how the Hunter Biden story was censored by Big Tech and mainstream media was wrong. It's so bad that people are - naturally - calling for stricter regulation of these groups.
When these companies step out of line and start tearing at the core values of this country, like free speech and a free press, the push to regulate is understandable. Only the most hardened hacks refuse to see that at this point.
Only time will tell us what the rest of the Twitter Files will tell us. Elon Musk has said Bari Weiss would get part of the story. But what we're seeing so far isn't good for social media companies or the push against regulation in this space. If you want a future with less government regulation, you should be cheering for Musk's attempt to throw back the curtain on what happened in 2020.