Author Michael Shellenberger on Saturday night released the fourth installment of the “Twitter Files,” an initiative backed by Twitter CEO Elon Musk to shed light on “free speech suppression.”
This latest portion of uncovered information regarding Twitter’s content moderation pre-Musk focused on employees’ reactions to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, leading up to the ban of former President Trump instituted on Jan. 8, 2021.
Shellenberger shared screenshots of a conversation on Jan. 7 between former Twitter Head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth and an anonymous coworker where he asked to blacklist the terms “stopthesteal” and “kraken,” which propped up the conspiracy that Trump won the 2020 election.
“I’m too worried about the risk of deamplifying counterspeech with stopthesteal,” replied the coworker, to which Roth responded “ack.”
A later conversation from Jan. 7 showed that pressure from Twitter employees factored into former CEO Jack Dorsey’s decision to distribute permanent bans after repeated violations of the community guidelines.
Dorsey sent out a company-wide email that day claiming that the social media outlet would remain consistent with its policies, to which some employees responded negatively.
Hours later, Roth messaged colleagues saying that Dorsey had approved a new “repeat offender” approach to Twitter’s “strikes” system, where a person who accrued five strikes would be permanently suspended.
The five-strike permanent suspension occurred the following day with Trump’s personal account.
Shellenberger’s thread also revealed instances where employees took action against tweets or users without a specific Twitter policy to back the choice.
“Twitter employees use the term ‘one off’ frequently in their Slack discussions,” wrote Shellenberger, providing screenshots of examples. “Its frequent use reveals significant employee discretion over when and whether to apply warning labels on tweets and ‘strikes’ on users.”
The first installment of the “Twitter Files on free speech suppression” launched just over a month after Musk acquired the social media company. The threads included are meant to show that Musk is delivering on his promise to reshape Twitter into a “free speech” platform by sharing the trove of internal documents with former NYT columnist Bari Weiss and independent journalist Matt Taibbi. Since then, Shellenberger has seemingly joined their effort by releasing the fourth installment.