Elon Musk's release of internal Twitter correspondence around the censoring of the New York Post's blockbuster "Hunter Biden laptop" story merely confirms what most knew already -- that Twitter under Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal was staffed with Democratic Party partisans who censored information they thought would damage their cause.
In a Tweet thread on Dec. 2, journalist Matt Taibbi exposes the smoking gun -- the frantic attempts to claim without evidence that any reference to the NY Post's story had to be banned from the platform because it might have come from "hacked materials." This, we can see now, was never seriously believed, even inside Twitter, as the email exchanges make clear.
The Post story was no "hack." It was not "Russian disinformation." Nor was it "unsafe." The executives running Twitter in the 20 days before the 2020 presidential election clearly knew that, and tried to find other justifications for what amounted to raw censorship.
With perhaps one hopeful exception, though, there is nothing new about any of this. Twitter's bias in censoring or banning conservative accounts for "hate speech" while happily servicing accounts for Iran's "Supreme Leader" and the Taliban is a running joke. In a series of secretly recorded interviews with Twitter employees, Project Veritas had already confirmed that "shadow-banning," manipulating the number of followers shown by certain accounts, and selectively "de-boosting" certain tweets in its algorithms was a well-established, standard manipulation of the platform's stated purpose: "We serve the public conversation. That's why it matters to us that people have a free and safe space to talk."
Still, Taibbi's disclosures are the paper trail proving these policies were discussed and enforced at the highest levels of the company prior to Musk's purchase. Indeed, the unfairness of these policies was apparently the very reason Musk moved to buy Twitter for $44 billion. Musk has been promising to make these disclosures public since taking over the company, and smartly gave them to Taibbi to vet before doing so.
The "one small exception" was the quiet effort documented in the release by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a very progressive Democrat whose district includes most of Silicon Valley, to appeal to Twitter's then head of legal, policy, and trust, Vijaya Gadde, to respect the principle of the First Amendment. In an email exchange, Khanna gave Gadde a robust defense of free speech (and some sound political advice), all of which fell on her deaf ears. Kudos to Khanna for his lonely but principled stand for free speech. Taibbi also noted in his thread that Khanna was the only Democratic official to do so.
The Post's story, while clearly intended as an "October surprise," still mattered because it substantiated and corroborated earlier reporting done on Hunter Biden's business deals during the time his father served as vice president under President Barack Obama. I provided some of that earlier reporting in two books, Secret Empires in 2018 and more details in Profiles in Corruption in 2020. Both books documented through public records Hunter Biden's dealings with foreign interests connected to Chinese intelligence through his company, Rosemont Seneca BHT, and his time serving without any qualifications on the board of a shady Ukrainian oil-and-gas firm called Burisma.
The researchers at the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) found the paperwork on these deals. We did not, until later, have emails from or sent to Hunter Biden that discussed these facts. We commend the reporting and research team at the New York Post for obtaining this information, performing the forensic examinations necessary to determine its authenticity, and publish the truth.
Of all the corruption stories I have investigated through the years, the web of the Biden family's corruption has been the widest and most complex. Following the money on this story has led me to Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Russia, and most significantly, to Communist China. The Biden family has traded on Joe's influence, with "the Big Guy's" knowledge, in these places and others.
China's enticements to the Biden family, however, are but one example of this campaign. We learned through this research how insidious and effective the Chinese government has been at co-opting not just the families of senior elected officials, but captains of industry, financial behemoths, and the wealthiest American philanthropists and educational institutions. It raised my awareness of how strategic China has been with these kinds of temptations. GAI is continuing to look at how China has corrupted and undermined America in ways both obvious and subtle. Readers can expect to hear more from GAI on this subject in the future.
The Biden story also showed the ingenuity of corrupt politicians who essentially "outsource" their corruption to family members rather than risk a possible paper trail leading back to themselves. The Bidens, even more than Bill and Hillary Clinton before them, were a family influence business. The Post's reporting on those schemes -- in the participants' own words -- was gratifying to those of us who have covered this story since 2017.
But there are still more threads here. When the Post's story first broke, I recall being relieved that the FBI had secured the original computer and its external hard drive belonging to Hunter Biden. The bureau obtained them through a subpoena in January 2020, months before Rudy Giuliani gave a copy of a copy made by the computer shop owner just before he handed both to the FBI.
However, the FBI's Hunter Biden investigation, which is based on information obtained from the laptop and from other sources, still drags on nearly three years later. In the intervening time, we have all learned about other stories of political interference and foot-dragging within the FBI. The public is right to wonder whether federal prosecutors are as serious about pursuing this case as Twitter's Democratic partisans were in squelching it.
Further, President Biden's Attorney General, Merrick Garland, continues to task the FBI with investigating the January 6, 2021 riots as a deep conspiracy, while simultaneously ignoring what certainly appear to have been well-organized efforts by Antifa to foment violence during the 2020 George Floyd riots, and violence done by pro-abortion organizations after someone on Twitter publicized the home addresses of Supreme Court justices, leading to one attempt on Justice Kavanaugh's life and the fire-bombing or vandalization of several pro-life pregnancy centers.
As an investigative journalist focused on government corruption, I try to stay in my lane. Yet, the impulses we see documented in Taibbi's thread by Twitter's most senior executives have a familiar ring. These are people, slightly removed from the dirty details, who are worried not about "serving the public conversation," as their corporate motto would have it, but ingratiating themselves with a political party and shielding its candidates from criticism. Principle or devotion to free speech abandoned them long ago, to be replaced by the arrogance of dictating what is good for the rest of us to read or not to read.
Yoel Roth resigned as Twitter's head of trust and safety a few weeks after Musk took control of the company. Back in 2020, Roth was instrumental in enforcing Twitter's ban on the Post's original story. In a recent podcast, Roth described the mood at that time this way: "We didn't know what to believe, we didn't know what was true, there was smoke." He explained that the story "set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 'hack and leak campaign' alarm bells." APT28 is another name for the Russian cybercrime group also called "Fancy Bear," which has engaged in disinformation efforts in the past.
Even now, Roth still tries to have it both ways. In the same answer I just quoted from, he also claimed, "ultimately for me, [the story] didn't reach a place where I was comfortable removing this content from Twitter."
But remove it he did, and for more than two critical weeks, under secret pressure from the Biden campaign and Democrats who were desperate to bury a devastating story that implicated their presidential candidate in his son's corruption by Chinese intelligence-connected businessmen. The Post's story was factually accurate, legitimately reported, and was (belatedly) authenticated by other news outlets. In short, there was no reason to do what Twitter, Roth, and Gadde did, other than pleasing a political party with whom they agreed.
Peter Schweizer, President of the Governmental Accountability Institute, is a Gatestone Institute Distinguished Senior Fellow and author of the new book, Red Handed: How American Elites are Helping China Win.