Censorship by Surrogate: Why Musk’s Document Dump Could be a Game Changer

Twitter LogoBelow is my column in the Hill on the recent disclosures in the “Twitter Files” on the coordination of censorship between the company and both Biden and Democratic party operatives. Beyond personally attacking Elon Musk and Matt Taibbi, many have resorted to the same old saw of censorship apologists: it is not censorship if the government did not do it or direct it. That is clearly untrue.  Many groups like the ACLU define censorship as denial of free speech by either government or private entities.  It is also worth noting that this censorship (and these back channels) continued after the Biden campaign became the Biden Administration. Moreover, some of the pressure was coming from Democratic senators and House members to silence critics and to bury the Hunter Biden influence peddling scandal.

Here is the column:

“Handled.” That one word, responding to a 2020 demand to censor a list of Twitter users, speaks volumes about the thousands of documents released by Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, on Friday night. As many of us have long suspected, there were back channels between Twitter and the Biden 2020 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to ban critics or remove negative stories. Those seeking to discuss the scandal were simply “handled,” and nothing else had to be said.

Ultimately, the New York Post was suspended from Twitter for reporting on the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. Twitter even blocked users from sharing the Post’s story by using a tool designed for child pornography. Even Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was suspended for linking to the scandal.

Twitter’s ex-safety chief, Yoel Roth, later said the decision was a “mistake” but the story “set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 hack and leak campaign alarm bells.” The reference to the APT28 Russian disinformation operation dovetailed with false claims of former U.S. intelligence officers that the laptop was “classic disinformation.”

The Russian disinformation claim was never particularly credible. The Biden campaign never denied the laptop was Hunter Biden’s; it left that to its media allies. Moreover, recipients of key emails could confirm those communications, and U.S. intelligence quickly rejected the Russian disinformation claim.

The point is, there was no direct evidence of a hack or a Russian conspiracy. Even Roth subsequently admitted he and others did not believe a clear basis existed to block the story, but they did so anyway.

Musk’s dumped Twitter documents not only confirm the worst expectations of some of us but feature many of the usual suspects for Twitter critics. The documents do not show a clear role or knowledge by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Instead, the censor in chief appears to be Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former chief legal officer who has been criticized as a leading anti-free speech figure in social media.

There also is James Baker, the controversial former FBI general counsel involved in the bureau’s Russia collusion investigation. He left the FBI and became Twitter’s deputy general counsel.

Some Twitter executives expressed unease with censoring the story, including former global communications VP Brandon Borrman, who asked, “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” Baker jumped in to support censorship and said, “It’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been [hacked] and that caution is warranted.” Baker thus comes across as someone who sees a Russian in every Rorschach inkblot. There was no evidence the Post’s Hunter Biden material was hacked — none. Yet Baker found a basis for a “reasonable” assumption that Russians or hackers were behind it.

Many people recognized the decision for what it was. A former Twitter employee reportedly told journalist Matt Taibbi, “Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold.”

Obviously, bias in the media is nothing new to Washington; newspapers and networks have long run interference for favored politicians or parties. However, this was not a case of a media company spiking its own story to protect a pal. It was a social media company that supplies a platform for people to communicate with each other on political, social and personal views. Social media is now more popular as a form of communications than the telephone.

Censoring communications on Twitter is more akin to the telephone company agreeing to cut the connection of any caller using disfavored terms. And at the apparent request of the 2020 Biden campaign and the DNC, Twitter seems to have routinely stopped others from discussing or hearing opposing views.

The internal company documents released by Musk reinforce what we have seen previously in other instances of Twitter censorship. A recent federal filing revealed an email between Twitter executives and Carol Crawford, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s digital media chief. Crawford’s back-channel communication sought to censor other “unapproved opinions” on social media; Twitter replied that “with our CEO testifying before Congress this week [it] is tricky.”

At the time, Twitter’s Dorsey and other tech CEOs were about to appear at a House hearing to discuss “misinformation” on social media and their “content moderation” policies. I had just testified on private censorship in circumventing the First Amendment as a type of censorship by surrogate. Dorsey and the other CEOs were asked about my warning of a “‘little brother’ problem, a problem which private entities do for the government that which it cannot legally do for itself.” In response, Dorsey insisted that “we don’t have a censoring department.”

The implications of these documents becomes more serious once the Biden campaign became the Biden administration. These documents show a back channel existed with President Biden’s campaign officials, but those same back channels appear to have continued to be used by Biden administration officials. If so, that would be when Twitter may have gone from a campaign ally to a surrogate for state censorship. As I have previously written, the administration cannot censor critics and cannot use agents for that purpose under the First Amendment.

That is precisely what Musk is now alleging. As the documents were being released, he tweeted, “Twitter acting by itself to suppress free speech is not a 1st amendment violation, but acting under orders from the government to suppress free speech, with no judicial review, is.”

The incoming Republican House majority has pledged to investigate — and Musk has made that process far easier by making good on his pledge of full transparency.

Washington has fully mobilized in its all-out war against Musk. Yet, with a record number of users signing up with Twitter, it seems clear the public is not buying censorship. They want more, not less, free speech.

That may be why political figures such as Hillary Clinton have enlisted foreign governments to compel the censoring of fellow citizens: If Twitter can’t be counted on to censor, perhaps the European Union will be the ideal surrogate to rid social media of these meddlesome posters.

The release of these documents has produced a level of exposure rarely seen in Washington, where such matters usually are simply “handled.” The political and media establishments generally are unstoppable forces — but they may have met their first immovable object in Musk.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

229 thoughts on “Censorship by Surrogate: Why Musk’s Document Dump Could be a Game Changer”

  1. It appears they may have found the evidence to support the allegation that the Feds were actively censoring posts on Twitter through a secret portal. It appears Facebook also used this mechanism for the Feds to censor FB posts

    Twitter ran a “Partner Support Portal” for government employees and other “stakeholders” to submit posts that it would remove or flag as “misinformation” on its platform. Documents obtained by AFL show Twitter enrolling one government employee, through their personal Twitter account, into this Portal.


  2. “The release of these documents has produced a level of exposure rarely seen in Washington, where such matters usually are simply “handled.” The political and media establishments generally are unstoppable forces — but they may have met their first immovable object…” J Turley
    I find that interesting and am curious to hear the tens or hundreds of instances J Turley secretly knows about.
    Please, do tell. How about a column outlining the hidden dirt ? No guts no glory, and thus down goes the ship…
    (I’m sure J Turley’s belief is exactly the opposite – keep the lies and secrets hidden to prop up the “stable democracy” no mater what!)

  3. People use euphemisms when they are ashamed or anxious at what they are doing. If an employee is fired, he is “being let go.” Killing one or more people can be called “liquidation”. Our censors choose the word “handle” to describe their suppression of politically-damaging information.

  4. twitter’s largest advertiser, Apple is resuming its full ad buys.
    Amazon also has signaled it will resume its full ad activity, and will quickly boost its ad spending to $100 million.

    Seems the predictions of twitters demise have been exaggerated.

  5. What I want to know is: are there prosecutable crimes, violations of law here? Where exactly if any?
    Just vigorous finger wagging = your enemies just laugh to the bank.

  6. Intel officials who claimed Hunter Biden laptop was ‘Russian disinformation’ far more blameworthy than Twitter censors


    “Amazingly, the former officials, once entrusted with some of the most sensitive powers and roles in the US government, aren’t as responsible and accountable as a social-media functionary from woke central casting.” ~ Story

  7. OT


    303 Creative LLC v. Elenis is a case of the 5th Amendment right to private property, not the 1st Amendment freedom of speech.

    The Colorado Anti Discrimination Act (CADA) is unconstitutional as it nullifies and denies to citizens the 5th Amendment right to “claim and exercise” dominion over private property.

    The right to private property may only be eliminated or modified by constitutional amendment, not by State Act.

    The right to private property is not qualified by the Constitution and is, therefore, absolute.

    If the right to private property is not absolute, it cannot and does not exist (e.g. a woman cannot be half pregnant).

    One of the Framers who wrote the 5th Amendment, James Madison, definitively and immutably defined 5th Amendment private property for posterity.

    “[Private property is] that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.”

    – James Madison

    No person but the owner has any power to “claim and exercise” dominion over, or possess and dispose of, private property.

    Occupation of private property may be deemed trespass by the owner and the right to pass withdrawn.

    The property owner, and only the property owner, may open and close his commercial enterprise to the public.

    That the property owner temporarily conducts voluntary commerce with a member of the public, does not cause the owner to forfeit his property or his power to “claim and exercise” dominion, does not provide the public any degree of ownership or any power to “claim and exercise” dominion over the related private property, and conducting voluntary commerce with the public does not impose a penalty on the owner for any violation or breech.

  8. Upstate, ATS aka Anonymous the Stupid is acting his spiteful self. He seems to have used the account that ends up being deleted along with everyone else’s.

    Here is your post. ATS is a jerk.

    “If this is the same person whom always posts, claiming to be the victim when in reality it is you who violated the Civility and Decorum Policy, then there is your answer.
    Otherwise, can you provide some evidence aside from the above to Darren’s so called censorship?”

    1. Upstate, it may have been the Bug you responded to and not Anonymous the Stupid. My understanding is the Bug is banned so everything he posts would likely be deleted with all the comments underneath.

      1. Yep, I saw that Darren cleaned up the mess, and as a result, my response to whomever it was got deleted.
        I am fine with that. I know I did nothing wrong and I abide by the Civility and Decorum Policy.

  9. Guy from Africa turned billionaire buys Twitter with his own money to restore free speech, Left wing media have a meltdown with Biden suggesting he should be investigated

    Left wing young punk steals > $30 Billion from his clients, and Maxine Waters blows him a kiss

    Before Bankman-Fried’s wealth disappeared in November 2022, Bankman-Fried was a major donor to Democratic Party candidates.[15][16] He was the second-largest individual donor to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, personally donating $5.2 million,[17][18] and he donated $40 million, mostly to Democratic candidates, during the 2022 U.S. midterm elections.
    – Wiki

    1. Let me get this straight, this guy commits the biggest fraud since Bernie Madoff, and he gets kisses blown to him?
      Because he was the second largest donor (after Soros) to the DNC?

      1. Probably number one, since the dark money is not reported on. Perhaps by a lot, like a billion or billions. Instead of just 40 million.
        Expect the demoncrat coffers and Sorros backup funds and NGO’s to be filled to the brim for many years.

  10. Your stomach turns as you discover that you are in the presence of the DIRECT AND MORTAL ENEMIES of freedom, the American thesis, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, patriotic Americans and America itself, and that the enemy can, may and shall be given no quarter.

    “With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.”

    – William Lloyd Garrison

    1. George:

      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
      ~CS Lewis

      The Dims used to be in this camp. Frustrated by eons of failure they’ve noe turned to coercion, deception and subterfuge and in so doing made mortal enemies of those of us sworn to defend that hoary old document.

      1. Thank you.
        Excellent quote.

        There is a similar paragraph in John Mill’s On Liberty that I can not seem to find.

        We Mill argues well that the most despotic form of govenrment is democracy, because there is no limit to the degree to which people can demand to pry into the lives of their neighbors.
        That we will tolerate intrusions arrising from democracy that would bring rebellion if enacted by a king.

        1. The American, restricted-vote, republican, form of democracy persists under the dominion of the “manifest tenor” of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

          “…courts…must…declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.”

          “…men…do…what their powers do not authorize, [and] what they forbid.”

          “[A] limited Constitution … can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing … To deny this would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

          – Alexander Hamilton

          1. The power of Judicial Review by the Supreme Court exists to contemporaneously assure that all actions of the executive and legislative branches comport with the literal Constitution.

            The Constitution, the whole Constitution, and nothing but the Constitution, so help you God.

        1. And the people – especially voters are never allowed to know the truth.

          Democracy – but only if they can control what the voters know, so that the vote as they are told.




    This country is SICK; this country is PUTREFIED.

    See if you can find the names, James Baker and Christopher Wray, here:

    “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    – Barack Obama

    “We will stop him.”

    – Peter Strzok to FBI paramour Lisa Page

    “[Obama] wants to know everything we’re doing.”

    – Lisa Page to FBI paramour Peter Strzok

    “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before 40.”

    – Peter Strzok to FBI parmour Lisa Page

    “People on the 7th floor to include Director are fired up about this [Trump] server.” 

    – Bill Priestap

    The Obama Coup D’etat in America is the most egregious abuse of power and the most prodigious crime in American political history. The co-conspirators are:

    Kevin Clinesmith, Bill Taylor, Eric Ciaramella, Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Andrew Weissmann,

    James Comey, Christopher Wray, McCabe, Strozk, Page, Laycock, Kadzic, Sally Yates,

    James Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell, Sir Richard Dearlove,

    Christopher Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper,

    Azra Turk, Kerry, Hillary, Huma, Mills, Brennan, Gina Haspel, Clapper, Lerner, Farkas, Power,

    Lynch, Rice, Jarrett, Holder, Brazile, Sessions (patsy), Nadler, Schiff, Pelosi, Obama,

    Joe Biden, James E. Boasberg, Emmet Sullivan, Gen. Milley, George Soros, John McCain,

    Marc Elias, Igor Danchenko, Fiona Hill, Charles H. Dolan, Jake Sullivan, Strobe Talbot,

    Cody Shear, Victoria Nuland, Ray “Red Hat” Epps, Don Berlin, Kathy Ruemmler, Rodney Joffe,

    Paul Vixie, L. Jean Camp, Andrew Whitney et al.

    1. Now, if only all of their home addresses could be published…

  12. Many 3 letter investigative agencies receive a lot of personal information from third parties such as Google, Facebook, and Apple.
    It would appear that the same disregard for our First Amendment rights also applies to our Fourth Amendment rights.
    It’s is unconstitutional and illegal, yet the dissemination of this data occurs on a daily basis and no one has challenged it.

    1. I believe an understanding of what’s going on here could be graphically illustrated with a simple diagram showing who is guarding the henhouse. The foxes or the chickens?
      “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
      (Who will guard the guards themselves?”)

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