Tuesday has already been quite the busy news day, and it also saw the release of two additional editions of the Twitter Files thanks to Matt Taibbi, who has shared several other editions. The first, from Tuesday afternoon is titled "How Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In," and the over 30-tweet thread certainly lives up to that.
https://t.co/mz7AFonNSn August 2017, when Facebook decided to suspend 300 accounts with “suspected Russian origin,” Twitter wasn’t worried. Its leaders were sure they didn’t have a Russia problem.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
4.“KEEP THE FOCUS ON FB”: Twitter was so sure they had no Russia problem, execs agreed the best PR strategy was to say nothing on record, and quietly hurl reporters at Facebook: pic.twitter.com/O3JtmId6MJ— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
As the first few tweets highlight, Twitter dismissed any concerns about "a Russian problem" to do with suspending accounts that were of "suspected Russian origin." That was considered a problem that Facebook had.
https://t.co/UDnxeU9IGx September, 2017, after a cursory review, Twitter informed the Senate it suspended 22 possible Russian accounts, and 179 others with “possible links” to those accounts, amid a larger set of roughly 2700 suspects manually examined.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
A September 6, 2017 email from Public Policy VP Colin Crowell on "Russian election meddling," which is specified as "Privileged and Confidential," highlights an area of "Important Context." Again, this is to put the focus on Facebook as opposed to Twitter.
Under such emphasis, the email read that "Twitter is not the focus of inquiry into Russian election meddling right now -- the spotlight is on FB because FB has better targeting ability than we have for campaign-related advertising; and, because the Trump campaign spent massively on FB during the election compared to what they spent w/us."
8.“#Irony,” mused Crowell the day after Warner’s presser, after receiving an e-circular from Warner’s re-election campaign, asking for “$5 or whatever you can spare.”— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
“LOL,” replied General Counsel Sean Edgett. pic.twitter.com/pJyeeGzLtG
When Twitter ultimately did suspend accounts--22 possible accounts and 179 with "possible links--it did so after manually looking at about 2,700 accounts.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who was then the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called out Twitter's report with strong words. The Senator also sent out fundraising emails the next day, something General Counsel Sean Edgett laughed off. In an email update, Crowell pointed not only to Warner's reaction, but that of Rep. Adam Schiff's (D-CA) and Hillary Clinton, who had just recently lost the presidential election to Trump and was engaging in her delusional "What Happened" book tour.
10.“TAKING THEIR CUES FROM HILLARY CLINTON” Crowell added Dems were taking cues from Hillary Clinton, who that week said: “It’s time for Twitter to stop dragging its heels and live up to the fact that its platform is being used as a tool for cyber-warfare.” pic.twitter.com/hLvh9rTNeP— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
12.The “Russia Task Force” started mainly with data shared from counterparts at Facebook, centered around accounts supposedly tied to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). But the search for Russian perfidy was a dud: pic.twitter.com/UKjxyRTSnZ— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
The thread also reveals how the "Russia Task Force" came about as a result of such pressure and anxiety, though its failure "worsened the company's PR crisis," as Taibbi would describe it.
14.OCT 18 2017: “First round of RU investigation… 15 high risk accounts, 3 of which have connections with Russia, although 2 are RT.” pic.twitter.com/MjtuvEZkYY— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
16.OCT 23 2017: “Finished with investigation… 2500 full manual account reviews, we think this is exhaustive… 32 suspicious accounts and only 17 of those are connected with Russia, only 2 of those have significant spend one of which is Russia Today...remaining <$10k in spend.” pic.twitter.com/Kkdyx4HDOr— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
18.The failure of the “Russia task force” to produce “material” worsened the company’s PR crisis.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
20.“Were Twitter a contractor for the FSB… they could not have built a more effective disinformation platform,” Johns Hopkins Professor (and Intel Committee “expert”) Thomas Rid told Politico. pic.twitter.com/J5Q3WYY3YI— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
22.“Hi guys.. Just passing along for awareness the writeup here from the WashPost today on potential legislation (or new FEC regulations) that may affect our political advertising,” wrote Crowell. pic.twitter.com/wbHK1s949y— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
Tweets in the thread show not merely Twitter and the intelligence community working together, but how the mainstream media was involved.
Examples include an October 13, 2017 article from POLITICO, "Twitter deleted data potentially crucial to Russia probes" by Josh Meyer. Another article, titled "Facebook, Google and Twitter face proposed bill targeting shadowy political ads," came from Hamza Shaban and Matea Gold at The Washington Post on September 22, 2017.
That latter article in particular, Crowell warned in another email from September 23, 2017 "may affect our political advertising." His email also added that he was addressing "the context of how FB's recent announcements are ginning things up here in town."
23. In Washington weeks after the first briefing, Twitter leaders were told by Senate staff that “Sen Warner feels like tech industry was in denial for months.” Added an Intel staffer: “Big interest in Politico article about deleted accounts." pic.twitter.com/gMD6rHVNPQ— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
Still later on, the thread reveals how Twitter "pledged to work with them on their desire to legislate in the area of political ads." Legislation was introduced in October of 2017, "The HONEST Act," which included not only Warner, but some other names, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and then Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). That Klobuchar pops up is hardly surprising, given her ever-increasing crusade to regulate Big Tech and social media.
25.“Knowing that our ads policy and product changes are an effort to anticipate congressional oversight, I wanted to share some relevant highlights of the legislation Senators Warner, Klobuchar and McCain will be introducing,” wrote Policy Director Carlos Monje soon after. pic.twitter.com/rh9Irov8vH— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
27.Reporters from all over started to call Twitter about Russia links. Buzzfeed, working with the University of Sheffield, claimed to find a “new network” on Twitter that had “close connections to… Russian-linked bot accounts.” pic.twitter.com/rHCWJULOBL— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
29. “SENATE INTEL COMMITTEE IS ASKING… POSSIBLE TO WHIP SOMETHING TOGETHER?” Still, when the Buzzfeed piece came out, the Senate asked for “a write up of what happened.” Twitter was soon apologizing for the same accounts they’d initially told the Senate were not a problem. pic.twitter.com/mIUmJtRLVc— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
Towards the conclusion of the thread, reporting from BuzzFeed in the United Kingdom, though Twitter made clear they preferred not to work with the outlet.
Even more problems came for Twitter, as the social media platform had to apologize and backtrack when it comes to accounts it once claimed were not a problem.
30.“REPORTERS NOW KNOW THIS IS A MODEL THAT WORKS”— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 3, 2023
This cycle – threatened legislation, wedded to scare headlines pushed by congressional/intel sources, followed by Twitter caving to moderation asks – would later be formalized in partnerships with federal law enforcement. pic.twitter.com/DWSlHkk2cm
Taibbi's thread included at least one duplicate. His tweets are included as they appeared in the thread.