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Twitter communication reveals how ‘Hunter Biden story’ was censored using dubious justification, with Vijaya Gadde at the helm: What happened

The said Twitter thread detailed how the former Legal Head of the company, Vijaya Gadde, was at the helm of the censorship exercise under the garb of vague and arbitrary rules. It is pertinent to note that Gadde was accused of refusing to take down child porn even as the victim's parents had pleaded for removal.

Days after Elon Musk vowed to restore public trust in Twitter, he revealed all internal communications pertaining to the censorship of the Hunter Biden story on the social media platform. The development took place on Friday (US local time) during which the new Twitter chief shared a 37-tweet-long thread, posted by independent journalist Matt Taibbi.

The said Twitter thread detailed how the former Legal Head of the company, Vijaya Gadde, was at the helm of the censorship exercise under the garb of vague and arbitrary rules. It is pertinent to note that Gadde was accused of refusing to take down child porn even as the victim’s parents had pleaded for removal.

The internal communications revealed how the Twitter moderation team routinely received directives from the Biden administration to censor tweets. “More to review from the Biden team,” read a response by a Twitter executive dated October 24, 2020.

Thus, it came as no surprise when the social media platform censored an article by the New York Post, which published an explosive story about Hunter Biden’s problematic emails with a Ukrainian gas company executive from Burisma in the run-up to elections. It is pertinent to note that when the Hunter Biden story was censored, Biden was not in power.

“Twitter took extraordinary steps to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it may be “unsafe.” They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool hitherto reserved for extreme cases, e.g. child pornography,” Matt Taibbi revealed.

According to the independent journalist, the Twitter moderation team went ahead with their crackdown and even locked the account of former White House spokeswoman, Kaleigh McEnany.

This prompted an angry letter from the campaign staffer of Donald trump, Mike Hahn, who said, “All she did was cite the story and firsthand reporting that has been reported by other outlets and not disputed by the Biden campaign.”

“I need an answer immediately on when/how she will be unlocked…Like I said, at least pretend to care for the next 20 days,” he took potshots at the partisan behaviour of the Twitter moderation team.

“Several employees noted that there was tension between the comms/policy teams, who had little/less control over moderation, and the safety/trust teams,” Matt Taibbi emphasised.

Twitter’s internal communication exposed how the censorship was justified under the guise of the ‘hacked materials policy.’ “Per checking, the user was bounced by Site Integrity for violating our Hacked Materials policy. Adding them here for further insights and guidance,” a Twitter executive had justified.

Matt Taibbi emphasised that the decision to censor the ‘Hunter Biden story’ was made at the highest level of the company but Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was apparently not privy to it. He added that the former Legal Head of Twitter, Vijay Gadde, played a crucial role in the process.

“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,” a Twitter employee described the decision-making process.

Former U.S. Policy Communications Manager at Twitter, Trenton Kennedy, had expressed doubts over the manner in which the New York Post article was gutted.

“I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe, and I think the best explainability argument for this externally would be that we’re waiting to understand if this story is the result of hacked materials,” he remarked during the internal Twitter discussion.

“We’ll face hard questions on this if we don’t have some kind of solid reasoning for marking the link unsafe,” Kennedy had highlighted. However, former Head of Trust & Safety at Twitter, Yoel Roth, had justified the move.

He had said, “The policy basis is hacked materials – though, as discussed, this is an emerging situation where the facts remain unclear. Given the severe risks here and lessons of 2016, we’re erring on the side of including a warning and preventing this content from being amplified.”

Several other top Twitter executives, including Brandon Borrman, had indicated that the ‘hacked materials policy’ invoked to withhold the Hunter Biden story was questionable. “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” he had inquired.

Matt Tabibi emphasised, “A fundamental problem with tech companies and content moderation: many people in charge of speech know/care little about speech, and have to be told the basics by outsiders.”

The independent journalist also pointed out how Indian-origin Democratic Congressman, Ro Khanna, expressed concern about the censorship of the New York Post article.

Vijaya Gadde, the former Legal Head at Twitter who was sacked after Elon Musk took charge of the company, had justified the decision to lock the account of White House spokeswoman, Kaleigh McEnany. She also tried to rationalise the gutting of the ‘Hunter Biden story.’

“We put out a clarifying thread of Tweets earlier this evening to explain our policy around the posting of private information and linking directly to hacked materials,” she had said.

“The press secretary’s account was not permanently suspended – we requested that she delete the tweet containing material that is in violation of our rules and her account is restricted until she complies,” Gadde further remarked.

Matt Taibbi pointed out how Jack Dorsey was allegedly kept in darkness over the ‘Hunter Biden laptop story coverup.’

“An amazing subplot of the Twitter/Hunter Biden laptop affair was how much was done without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey, and how long it took for the situation to get “unfucked” (as one ex-employee put it) even after Dorsey jumped in,” he concluded.

The Background of the Controversy

It is notable here that in the last weeks of the 2020 US presidential elections, the New York Post published an explosive story about Hunter Biden’s problematic emails with a Ukrainian gas company executive from Burisma.

In its report, the news outlet alleged that they had accessed material from a damaged Macbook that was brought to a service centre for repair. The customer who brought the laptop never collected or paid for the services.

The shop owner said he repeatedly tried to contact the client. Though he could not identify the owner as Hunter Biden, he said the laptop had Beau Biden Foundation’s sticker.

The report has several documents and mentions a video that proves that Joe Biden met a high-profile businessman from Ukraine when he was Vice President of the United States. 

Reports suggested that Biden may have helped his son Hunter using his influence as the VP of the United States in his business in Ukraine. The Biden Camp categorically denied all the allegations.

It was heavily censored by both Twitter and Facebook and was branded as a piece of fake news. Initially, the left and liberal cabal dismissed the report as a hoax, but it was eventually confirmed that the laptop’s contents did really belong to Hunter Biden.

Following the restriction of the NYP report, Twitter justified the action by claiming that its policies forbid the sharing of compromised information. After the elections were over and Joe Biden was declared president, it later became clear that the NY Post story was true.

Twitter’s former head Jack Dorsey then expressed regret over censoring the story and blocking NY Post from their Twitter account.

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