Former President Donald Trump called Saturday for the “termination” of articles of the Constitution following the “Twitter files” leak of a series of messages between the social media platform’s leaders in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
Trump suggested that the contents of the leak warranted a complete election re-do or simply a coup in which he would be installed as president.
“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, the platform he started after being kicked off Twitter early 2021.
In a follow-up post, he added: “UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!”
On Friday evening, author Matt Taibbi posted a thread of dozens of tweets that he titled “THE TWITTER FILES,” alleging that his story offered bombshell revelations about free speech on Twitter. Some conservatives claim Taibbi’s tweets prove that Twitter improperly influenced the result of the last presidential election, although the story has been panned as overhyped and misleading.
The purportedly leaked messages discussed content moderation decisions ― specifically, how Twitter would handle the New York Post story about the sordid contents of a laptop reportedly belonging to Hunter Biden. The laptop’s contents ranged from explicit photographs of Joe Biden’s son and his romantic partners to emails about his work advising Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company.
At the time, many intelligence experts thought the story’s provenance was highly suspect, given the threat of foreign disinformation in the weeks leading up to a monumental election. A group of more than 50 former intelligence officials signed an open letter stating that the laptop story “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” Tech companies that were excoriated for allowing disinformation to flow freely on major social platforms during the 2016 presidential campaign were not keen to make the same mistakes.
Since then, at least some of the information from the laptop has been authenticated by news outlets that are not owned by right-wing billionaire Rupert Murdoch.
But in all the uncertainty of late 2020, Twitter went to relatively extreme lengths to deal with the laptop story: The platform blocked it. Sharing a link to the New York Post story meant your account could be locked until you deleted it, which is what happened to then-White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
This brings us back to the “Twitter Files” leak.
Twitter’s new overlord, the billionaire Elon Musk, had teased and hyped the thread with popcorn emojis in the hours before, writing, “This will be awesome.”
Taibbi claimed he had been given access to “thousands of internal documents obtained by sources at Twitter.” In what he promised would be the first in a series of installments to “The Twitter Files,” Taibbi shared screenshots of conversations that high-level Twitter executives supposedly had.
The company’s leaders settled on saying that the New York Post story violated its rules against hacked materials, although later, they reversed this decision. One email purportedly showed how Twitter executives heard from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who said suppressing the Post story had angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and was not in line with First Amendment principles.
Some conservatives reacted with particular outrage at another point in Taibbi’s thread, where he shared what appeared to be a request from someone on Joe Biden’s team. At the time, Biden was still just a presidential candidate, and someone had asked Twitter to remove several tweets. While some reacted as if this amounted to collusion, the tweets in question contained nude photos of the president’s son taken from his laptop.
The entire “Twitter Files” saga does seem to make one point clear: The complicated necessity of content moderation on major internet platforms.