The fifth batch, which was released by Elon Musk’s allies as the “Twitter Files,” contains the thoughts of Twitter employees on the day that the platform suspended then-President Donald Trump.
Although most Twitter employees expressed opposition to Trump’s removal from the platform following the Jan. 6 protests they released screenshots showing that the team was unable to locate a tweet that would justify a ban. These screenshots were taken by Bari Weiss, a former New York Times journalist. The company’s decision to ban Trump was only justified after executives demanded that moderators search for “coded” language in Trump’s tweets.
Weiss stated that the concern about Twitter’s attempts to censor information about Hunter Biden’s laptop and block disfavored views or ban a president is not about past decisions of executives at a social media company. They’re about the power that a few people have at a private firm to influence public discourses and democracy.
On Jan. 8, Trump sent out two tweets. One claiming that 75 million Americans will have a “Giant Voice”, and the second confirming that Trump would not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration. Twitter’s moderators could not find any tweets that directly and clearly encouraged voters to continue Jan. 6.
While hundreds of employees urged Twitter executives to ban Trump through an open letter, the content review team found that the tweets were not sufficient to warrant a ban.
Twitter executives quickly intervened.
Vijaya Gadde (ex-head of policy at Twitter), stated in a Slack message that the biggest question was whether Trump’s tweet from this morning is being used to incite further violence.
Moderators quickly moved to get comments from other staffers on the tweet’s language. After a quick survey, the team responded that Trump’s tweet could have been interpreted as glorifying violence if a reader read “American Patriots” to refer to the Jan. 6 rioters. Select employees saw Trump as the “leader a terrorist organization,” similar to the Christchurch shootings of 2019, in which a young man shot dead dozens at two mosques in New Zealand.
After the initial conversations, Twitter executives convened a 30-minute meeting of all staff. In which Gadde (ex-Twitter CEO) and Jack Dorsey (ex-Twitter CEO) tried to address concerns raised by employees about Trump’s ban. It was not well-received.
Twitter declared that Trump was being permanently suspended “due to further incitement for violence” an hour later. Staff liked the decision, but others used it to advocate for a more aggressive approach in moderating medical misinformation.
Weiss’s publication is the last drop in a series on Twitter’s handling Trump’s ban. Michael Shellenberger, a fellow journalist, and Matt Taibbi, an author, released the first two drops. They detail the company’s efforts to counter misinformation during 2020 and the company’s response to Jan. 6 protests.
These releases were preceded with threads that documented Twitter’s handling the Hunter Biden laptop investigation by New York Post, as well as Twitter’s blacklisting practices.