The Twittergate drop included evidence that members of the Biden team had a cozy relationship with Twitter’s staff during the 2020 campaign. Apparently they could have tweets removed at will, with merely a blithe reference to “misinformation,” or whatever term de jour was in usage at the time. The reaction from the mainstream media has been either silence, or clever semantic arguments to downplay its significance. Elon Musk held a Twitter Space in which he explained his goals and motives in releasing the information:
Journalist and popular Twitter personality Ian Miles Cheong dialogued with Musk during most of the Space. Cheong joined the space from Malaysia. Otherwise, it was a little chaotic in terms of who was speaking when, with some tech issues along the way. There were in excess of 100k listening live on Twitter.
Ye (Kanye West) Controversy
Musk addressed his decision to permanently suspend Ye. Musk pointed out that a more academic discussion of WWII, debating battlefields, for example, would have been one thing:
“Ok, well no, he’s saying that he likes Hitler and…other things. When it comes to the point that Alex Jones is telling you to stop, it’s like, ok, Alex Jones is pretty edgy. Alex Jones is telling Kanye to stop? That’s a big deal. Anyway, but I don’t want to turn this into some huge..this could easily get derailed.”
At this point they change the subject away from Ye and on to Twittergate. Yet the suspension of Kanye is significant for several reasons. For one thing, it was a pretty clear cut example of someone crossing a boundary of what would be considered acceptable on Twitter. The Overton Window might have shifted a bit since Musk’s takeover, but it hasn’t shifted that far.
Musk has successfully triangulated himself against the left and the right, positioning himself as a reasonable person, who is responsibly running Twitter. This leads us to Musk’s declaration that advertisers have returned:
Perhaps the advertisers were skittish, taking the media literally that Twitter was becoming a far-right extremist social media site. Now that Musk has banned Ye, he showed that is not the case. In the meantime, Musk has not alienated too many people by banning Kanye West. Who at this point would stick their neck out to defend Ye?
“I’m a huge moderate”Musk’s describes his politics in his Twitter Space.
Musk also explained his thinking on Twittergate, his decision to release internal communications in which Twitter employees took decisions to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story:
“The point is just to have everything come clean. The point is not that everyone would necessarily agree with Twitter has done in the past or in the future. But they should at least know that it is occurring and that there is no shady stuff that is happening that they are unaware of. At least if Twitter is explicit about its actions and transparent, you can then appropriately calibrate what you learn on Twitter.”
It is quite an eloquent explanation of Musk’s commitment to transparency. We can take comfort in terms of Twitter’s approach to the handling of delicate political controversies. Musk goes on to express bewilderment that it is actually journalists who are the most fierce opponents in this expose of Twitter’s internal decision making. For their part, journalists fear the media’s complicity is being exposed. Hence journalists, ironically, have an incentive towards less transparency in this case.