By Tom Ozimek
Elon Musk said Monday that Twitter’s internal files on the company’s “free speech suppression” will be revealed “soon,” raising expectations that light will be shed on the circumstances around Twitter’s censorship of the New York Post’s explosive story that exposed information on a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden.
“The Twitter Files on free speech suppression soon to be published on Twitter itself. The public deserves to know what really happened …” Musk said in a post late Monday.
Critics have long held that Twitter has used vague standards to censor or suspend accounts and that the ones targeted are predominantly those expressing conservative views.
Twitter has denied any bias in its actions, repeatedly insisting it is simply following its content moderation policies.
Weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the New York Post published an article that allegedly detailed meetings President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, had with a Ukrainian energy firm before then-Vice President Biden pressured Ukrainian government officials to fire a prosecutor probing the company.
The story was seen by Biden’s political opponents as evidence of corruption and the news quickly spread across Twitter, prompting the social media firm to start removing links to the article and, for a period of time, suspending the New York Post’s Twitter account.
Conservatives saw Twitter’s actions in this regard as evidence of the company’s pro-Biden, anti-Trump bias.
Twitter said at the time that it was simply enforcing its rules on hacked materials, which prohibit distribution of information that is obtained through hacking.
Musk in April spoke out in opposition to Twitter’s decision to temporarily suspend New York Post’s Twitter account.
“Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate,” Musk said in April, responding to a post about the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Musk, who took over Twitter in late October, has vowed to make the platform into a politically unbiased bastion of free speech.
He said in an open letter following his acquisition of Twitter that he bought it because “it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.”
“There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society,” Musk added.
Part of Musk’s efforts to restore Twitter’s role as an unbiased “digital town square” include a pledge to disclose Twitter’s internal discussions around suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story.
“Raise your hand if you think [Musk] should make public all internal discussions about the decision to censor the [New York Post’s] story on Hunter Biden’s laptop before the 2020 Election in the interest of Transparency,” news personality Alex Lorusso said on Twitter on Nov. 24.
“This is necessary to restore public trust,” Musk said in reply.
Musk’s post on Tuesday about an imminent publication of Twitter’s “free speech suppression” files suggests that disclosures around the company’s decision to censor Hunter Biden laptop content will also soon see the light of day.
The new Twitter owner’s efforts around free speech on the platform extend beyond the Hunter Biden laptop story.
He said in a follow-up post that he sees the forthcoming “free speech suppression” disclosures as part of a bigger battle against censorship.
“This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead,” Musk wrote.
Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told lawmakers in Washington in November 2020 that censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story was a mistake.
He told the Senate Judiciary Committee via video conference that Twitter employees made an enforcement decision based on a policy they created in 2018 in order to prevent the social media platform from being used to spread hacked materials.
Dorsey issued a public apology for suspending numerous accounts that shared the paper’s story, saying in a statement on Twitter that the company’s “communication” around censoring the report “was not great.”
“Our communication around our actions on the [New York Post] article was not great,” Dorsey said. “And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable.”
While Musk has vowed to dial back Twitter’s censorship policies that many conservatives have alleged are discriminatory and amount to suppression of free speech, he pledged in his open letter not to allow the platform to become a “free-for-all hellscape” where anything could be said “with no consequences.”
“In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all,” Musk wrote.
He also announced earlier in November that Twitter’s new policy is “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” adding that Twitter would demonetize and not promote “hate/negative tweets.”
“You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet,” Musk said.
Lorenz Duchamps contributed to this report.