Twitter executives bent over backwards to try to suppress tweets from high-profile conservatives leading up to the 2020 election – but found ways to justify keeping up posts from users that espoused liberal political views, the latest “Twitter Files” reveal.
In one shocking instance, when workers at the social media giant didn’t have a “firm policy basis” for censoring a pro-Trump tweet from right-wing Hollywood actor James Woods, they vowed to “hit him hard on future [violations],” according to a screenshot of internal communications shared by independent journalist Matt Taibbi.
“Twitter is suppressing this tweet by the President. Here’s a screen grab,” Woods wrote on Twitter in October of 2020, sharing an image of a tweet from then-President Donald Trump that Twitter flagged as “disputed” and “misleading.”
The conservative actor’s swipe against the social media giant appeared to anger top company execs so much so that they considered taking action against Woods’s account.
“I’d suggest we action him for something worth the fiasco rather than this screenshot, since we don’t have a firm policy basis for action on his account,” an unnamed Twitter employee wrote in the internal message obtained by Taibbi.
Taibbi also highlights a Trump tweet from October 2020 that Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, acknowledges is “factually accurate” but was still nearly slapped with a warning label.
“No. A Rigged Election!” Trump wrote in response to a Ohio news outlet tweet about incorrect ballots being mailed to residents, which asked Twitter users if they “feel safe” mailing in ballots.
Twitter employees nearly added a “mail-in voting is safe” warning label to this tweet, Taibbi discovered, before realizing “the events took place” and “the commentary by POTUS is his opinion related to these real events.”
“Yeah … those are factually accurate,” Roth tells his colleagues.
Twitter execs also pored over a tweet former Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee posted leading up to the 2020 presidential election in which he joked that he filled out ballots for his “deceased parents and grandparents.”
“Stood in rain for hour to early vote today. When I got home I filled in my stack of mail-in ballots and then voted the ballots of my deceased parents and grandparents. They vote just like me! #Trump2020” Huckabee tweeted in October of 2020.
Twitter employees didn’t find the post amusing and nearly took action against it, with Taibbi finding that one employee said, “I agree it’s a joke … but he’s also literally admitting in a tweet a crime.”
“The group declares Huck’s an ‘edge case,’ and though one notes, ‘we don’t make exceptions for jokes or satire,’ they ultimately decide to leave him be, because ‘we’ve poked enough bears,’” Taibbi writes.
Before letting Huckabee’s tweet go, employees banter and worry about the “confusion” such joking tweets might lead to, with Roth suggesting that in future cases the decision whether to suppress such a post might come down to how much confusion it causes.
In contrast, Taibbi pointed out “multiple instances” of misleading “pro-Biden tweets” that didn’t face the same level of scrutiny.
“Meanwhile, there are multiple instances of involving pro-Biden tweets warning Trump ‘may try to steal the election’ that got surfaced, only to be approved by senior executives,” Taibbi found.
One tweet that caught the attention of Twitter’s top brass, from a user named “elijah daniel,” railed against the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and warned, “They’re going to try to steal the election,” telling voters “don’t mail” ballots and instead drop them off in person.
However, Twitter execs found that the tweet “expresses concern that mailed ballots might not make it on time” and let it slide.
Even a tweet with the hashtag #StealOurVotes is left in place with no labels added because Twitter execs find it to be a “reference to… a US Supreme Court decision” and “understandable.”
Taibbi also found that Roth moved to strip a warning label off former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder who tweeted in October of 2020 that “It’s too late to use the mail” and claimed the U.S. Postal Service was “deliberately crippled” by Trump.
Roth called Holder’s tweet “factually accurate.”