The December Harvard CAPS / Harris Poll is out this week and Mark Penn and his colleagues have some interesting results to share. Despite the refusal of many in the media to cover the Twitter files, nearly two-thirds of voters believe Twitter shadow-banned users and engaged in political censorship during the 2020 election. Seventy percent of voters want new national laws protecting users from corporate censorship.
This week, the media continued to fulfill that common view of a de facto state media by ignoring new evidence of FBI coordination in censorship targets with Twitter in the latest news blackout.
On Friday, Twitter released additional information showing that the FBI and CIA actively pushed for censorship, supplying lists of accounts to be suspended or banned.
Journalist Matt Taibbi described Twitter as acting as a “subsidiary” of the FBI and wrote that “between January 2020 and November 2022, there were over 150 emails between the FBI and former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth.”
The evidence continues to establish a system of censorship by surrogate or proxy. While the First Amendment applies to the government and not private corporations generally, it does apply to agents or surrogates of the government. Twitter now admits that such a relationship existed between its former officials and the government.
Once again, however, the major networks and newspapers have largely ignored the story. There has been a full mobilization of media, political, and business interests against Elon Musk and Twitter to oppose the restoration of free speech protections at the company. The media is heavily invested in suppressing this story after years of denials of any problems of censorship. Previously, they denied censorship was occurring. When such censorship became obvious, they denied that there was any involvement of the FBI and the government. Now that such involvement is confirmed, they are simply not covering the story.
Instead, the media is “all-in” on the doxxing suspensions (which Musk has now lifted). I have been critical of Musk’s response to the doxxing controversy. In part this is due to the scope of the suspensions and the fact that they occurred only 24 hours after the new policy was implemented. I would have preferred warnings and further clarity on the issue, particularly in what constituted doxxing in some of these tweets from journalists.
Despite the overwhelming coverage, there is little explanation of the media’s approach to the underlying doxxing question. Some have said that this is a “grey area” or may be below the threshold.
For years, the media has supported suspensions due to doxxing. In this case, the location of Musk’s plane may have been used by an individual to threaten his family. Most reports omit any discussion of whether the sending of such live locations information is doxxing. If it is, it has long been banned by most sites and journalists are not exempt.
Previously, figures connected with mainstream media from CNN to the Washington Post have been accused of doxxing. Liberal groups were accused of doxxing conservative justices and others, including dangerously posting information on the children of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. It does not seem to matter when the targets are conservative, Republican, or libertarian.
Writers who have long advocated the banning of others with opposing views are some of the loudest objecting in the wake of the doxxing controversy. The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz expressed fear that she could be next. It may not be a groundless fear since Lorenz has been previously accused of doxxing others and described the reintroduction of free speech protections for others as the opening of “the gates of hell.”
Jack Sweeney, the creator of this site (using publicly available information), has expressed shock at being sued and suspended. However, these articles continue to tellingly omit one of the critical issues. Is it doxxing to supply people with the minute-by-minute movement of the plane used by Musk and his family? That would seem relevant to weighing the merits of these suspensions.
Such slanted coverage is clearly losing its hold on the public or its view of Twitter. Indeed, the media continues to write off a large percentage of readers and viewers with openly biased coverage. The public is not buying it. It is buying Twitter. Not only are users signing up in record numbers, but a recent poll shows a majority of Americans “support Elon Musk’s ongoing efforts to change Twitter to a more free and transparent platform.”
In the wake of the latest release, the FBI issued a statement that said that there was nothing to see here and that “the FBI regularly engages with private sector entities to provide information specific to identified foreign malign influence actors’ subversive, undeclared, covert, or criminal activities.”
The statement is notable for what it does not contain: any recognition of the seriousness of the allegations or pledge to conduct its own investigation in whether this relationship crossed over to de facto government censorship. According to some reports, as many as 80 FBI agents may have been tasked to assist in the censorship efforts. Yet, the FBI has offered little more than a shrug in the face of credible constitutional concerns.
According to the Harvard/Harris poll, the public believes that such censorship occurred and warrants action. The denials of the FBI and the dismissal of the mainstream media will only serve to magnify such calls for action.