Journalist David Zweig has reported that former FBI General Counsel and former Deputy Counsel at Twitter, Jim Baker, flagged an optimistic tweet of former President Donald Trump on Covid as possible “misinformation” to be censored. I have previously written about Baker becoming the Kevin Bacon of Washington scandals. He is now prominently featured in the censorship scandal and new disclosures show that he eagerly used his position at Twitter to seek to silence Trump and those with opposing views. The most recent exchange offers an insight into Baker’s hair-triggered tendencies on censorship. It appears that calling for optimism was intolerable for the former FBI general counsel.
Baker flagged a tweet from then-President Trump on October 5, 2020, that “I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
Baker immediately pulled the trigger on the tweet and called on former head of Twitter Trust and Safety Yoel Roth and Twitter legal executive Stacia Cardille to look at the possible “violation.” Baker wrote “Yoel and Stacia,” Why isn’t this POTUS tweet a violation of our COVID-19 policy (especially the ‘Don’t be afraid of Covid’ statement)?”
Roth replied with the obvious:
“Adding you to the main thread on this subject. In short, this tweet is a broad, optimistic statement. It doesn’t incite people to do something harmful, nor does it recommend against taking precautions or following mask directives (or other guidelines). It doesn’t fall within the published scope of our policies. Curious whether you have a different read on it, though.”
It was a telling insight into the fluidity of these standards and the exchange of censors determining who can say what on Twitter, even the President of the United States.
Baker’s relatively low threshold for censorship is obvious but it is equally obvious that the outcome might have changed if different language were used on same point.
So if Trump was more specific (rather than “broad”) or more pointed (rather than “optimistic”) would the result be different? It is hard to tell because even the chief censors seem to just do gut checks on who should be silenced or suspended on any given tweet.
It is also notable that the mask mandate was viewed as inviolate. Those who questioned the efficacy of masks were suspended or banned but now have been seemingly vindicated. Among the suspended were the doctors who co-authored of the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocated for a more focused Covid response that targeted the most vulnerable population rather than widespread lockdowns and mandates. Many are now questioning the efficacy and cost of the massive lockdown as well as the real value of masks or the rejection of natural immunities as an alternative to vaccination. Yet, these experts and others were attacked for such views just a year ago. Some found themselves censored on social media for challenging claims of Dr. Fauci and others.
As for Baker, the greatest concern seemed to be the optimism. He seemed to think that Twitter had to keep the fear of Covid unquestioned and uncontradicted on social media. The very notion of not being afraid set him off. Because he disagreed with the optimism, he felt it might be fair game to censor such sentiments.