Twitter’s Trust Bust: New Documents Show How “Trust” Executives Misled Congress and the Public

Twitter LogoBelow is my column in the New York Post on the second release of the “Twitter Files.” The new material exposes the company’s system of censorship and suppression of disfavored views.  The documents shatter prior statements of Twitter, including statements made to Congress. As discussed below, there could be legal as well as political ramifications as the House moves forward with the long-delayed investigation of these social media companies.

For years, the “Trust” professionals have insisted that the public should “trust us, we’re Twitter.” Now the public has direct evidence that the company not only engaged in raw, biased censorship but misled them on how Twitter was manipulating the discussion of political issues. Ernest Hemingway said that “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” That trust in Twitter was clearly misplaced.

Here is the column:

“1984” author George Orwell warned that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” That line has never been more relevant than in the aftermath of the second release of Twitter documents this week.

Many liberals had denied the social-media giant was engaging in censorship by using the more pleasant term “content modification.” Now, documents show Twitter executives burying “disfavored” views as “visibility filtering” and “amplification” limits.

Calling executives the “Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust” (Vijaya Gadde) and the “Global Head of Trust & Safety” (Yoel Roth) doesn’t alter their status as some of the greatest censors in history.

Yet the license for this massive system clearly came from Twitter’s very top. Shadow banning and “visibility filtering” are consistent with the policies of ex-CEO Parag Agrawal, who pledged the company would “focus less on thinking about free speech” because “speech is easy on the Internet. Most people can speak. Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard.”

So we now know that Twitter was not only banning dissenting voices on subjects ranging from COVID to climate change but was throttling or suppressing the traffic for disfavored writers.

Among those targeted was Stanford professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who wrote about how COVID lockdowns would harm children. He and others have been vindicated in flagging those worries, but Twitter secretly placed him on a “Trends Blacklist” to prevent his tweets from trending. It’s a telling list because it reflects an acknowledgment that such tweets would trend with users if the company didn’t suppress them.

Some of us have been raising concerns over Twitter’s massive censorship system for years, including what I called the emergence of a “shadow state” where corporations carry out censorship the Constitution bars the government from doing.

What’s striking is leading Democrats have been open about precisely this type of corporate manipulation of political speech on social media. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called upon these companies to use enlightened algorithms to protect users from their own bad reading choices.

Even President Joe Biden called for such regulation of speech and discussions by wise editors. Without such censorship and manipulation, Biden asked, “How do people know the truth?

It is still early to determine possible legal implications of these files, but there are some areas likely to be of immediate concern for counsel.

First, Elon Musk has suggested that some material may have been intentionally hidden or destroyed despite inquiries from Congress. Twitter was told to expect a congressional investigation into these areas.

It’s not clear if this was material allegedly deleted as part of a regular process or a specific effort to destroy evidence of censorship or throttling. Such obstruction cases, however, can be difficult to bring absent clear evidence. In 2005, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned accounting firm Arthur Andersen’s conviction for its destruction of documents under a standard record-management system.

Second, destruction of documents could also prove relevant as part of an investigation into whether false statements were given under oath. Twitter executives denied such secret suppression efforts both in public and before Congress. Indeed, a recent federal filing revealed a 2021 email between Twitter executives and Carol Crawford, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s digital media chief. Crawford wanted to censor “unapproved opinions” on social media; Twitter replied that “with our CEO testifying before Congress this week [it] is tricky.”

At that hearing, social-media companies were asked about my prior testimony on private censorship in circumventing the First Amendment. In response, Dorsey insisted that “we don’t have a censoring department.” Dorsey also expressly denied under oath that there was “shadow banning” based on political ideology.

Likewise, in 2018, Gadde and Head of Product Kayvon Beykpour expressly declared, “We do not shadow ban. And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”

It turns out you don’t need a “department” if the entire company was acting as a massive censorship and suppression machine. Moreover, one “department” Dorsey did not mention was the Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, or SRT-GET, that operated above what journalist Bari Weiss described as “official ticketing.” That group reportedly included Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust Vijaya Gadde, Global Head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth, subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal and others.

Third, there’s the growing question of censorship by surrogate. The new documents suggest the effort to control political speech went far beyond the banning or suspending of particular figures. Those highly publicized controversies like banning LibsofTikTok now appear to be the tip of a censorship iceberg with secret efforts to blacklist, throttle and suppress disfavored viewpoints.

There were even “search blacklists” to make it difficult for people to link to disfavored views. Those blacklisted may revive lawsuits alleging Twitter was acting as an agent of the government in manipulating public debates and discussions.

Of course, legal ramifications will continue to be blunted by a media and administration that have overwhelmingly supported censorship. Liberal writers and officials have surrendered much in the last few years in supporting censorship and pushing blacklists of conservative figures, including Supreme Court justices.

Musk has forced citizens to take sides on the free-speech fight. He has both the public and free speech on his side. 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.”

The public is simply not buying the liberal narrative. What media figures once called “a canard” and a “conspiracy theory” is being exposed to full public view.

All the Orwellian euphemisms and cheery titles will no longer disguise Twitter’s raw censorship. Once empowered by Agrawal to determine “who can be heard,” Twitter executives showed how censorship can become an insatiable appetite for speech controls. Sitting in the San Francisco headquarters, the “Trust” officials found an array of conservative views unworthy to be heard. The “filtering” of free speech quickly became a choice on what views are worthy of attention.

After all, if you cannot trust “Trust” professionals, who can you trust?

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.

394 thoughts on “Twitter’s Trust Bust: New Documents Show How “Trust” Executives Misled Congress and the Public”

  1. Some try to excuse Twitter’s behavior by flogging the ToS.

    The ToS is certainly what they *said*. But it is not what they *did*.

    When *actions* contradict words, go with the actions.

    That they lied about their *actions,* merely compounds their dishonesty.

      1. “What did they DO that is contrary to their TOS?”
        Same thing that Holmes and Balwani did at Theranos — commit fraud. She was sentenced to 11 years, he to 12 in prison. will the Twitter execus suffer the same punishment? One can only hope.

        The evidence is everywhere. You just choose to ignore it. And it is worse than pointless to debate a chronic evader.

        1. If the evidence is everywhere, it should be easy for you to provide actual evidence of the fraud you say occurred. Your claim, your burden of proof.

          1. “. . . your burden of proof.”

            For you and your partners in crime, “burden of proof” is a trapdoor, covering a rabbit hole of endless demands for more “evidence,” and dismissive assertaions that: Well, if you look at that evidence sideways, it doesn’t count as evidence.

            What is particularly revolting about that tool of deception is that you, and your fellow travelers, steal a legitimate principle of logic (the burden of proof), in order to trap the unsuspecting in a web of chaos and confusion.

            A warnning to the innocent and conscientious: Enter that trapdoor at your own peril.

      2. Evidently, ‘Shadow banning’ by tight-knit little groups of kids barely post-puberty (aka Twitter Executives) I wouldn’t let walk my cat.(aka ‘cat herders’) don’t think many people, or even bots, would go for that? .. assuming that was spelled-out in Twitter’s TOS agreement?

        *Disclaimer: I have no dog in this fight. I only have a Twitter account because Twitter ‘required’ me to establish one to follow the ‘links’ posted (in other Twitter accounts). I have 0 followers, 0 following and have posted nary a peep.

        1. Twitter doesn’t require you to have an account in order to follow links. I don’t have a Twitter account, and I have no problem reading tweets and following embedded links when I want.

          1. Well, couple years ago Twitter Required me to establish a Twitter account to follow embedded links.

            What can I say .. . maybe I’m just more popular than you with the Twitter crowd?

            *btw how many of you are there around here ‘Anonymous’?

            1. I don’t know how many people comment anonymously, but it’s multiple people, some liberal and others conservative.

  2. Today’s news.

    First to Svelaz, several outlets are claiming that Hobb’s threatend to indict the Cochise County EB.
    While I do not have source documents – like the email from Hobb’s assistant threatening criminal prosecution,
    there are too many sources now.

    Nor is this ever close to the only Hobb’s revalation. Hobbs sought to have twitter suppress political opponents in early 2021.
    The request went to Twitter as well as other SM, and circulated through the federal government including DHS.
    And aparently there are many more supression requests by Hobb’s.
    Hobb’s is a government official and she sought to supress the speach of political opponents.

    Next while Taibbi claims he was told that the GOP, Trump campaign, and Trump WH on rare occasion made requests of Twitter,
    he has not as of yet found a single request from the GOP, Trump Campaign or Trump WH.

    If these exist and are for speech that is not constitutionally illegal – they would be as heinous as those of democrats – if not as frequent.

  3. When I learn that certain people have jobs promoting ethics or trust or even the word of God, my initial reaction ought not be one of surprise based on what I know about their behavior. Sadly, all too often, it is.

  4. “Katie Hobbs (
    ) as a candidate absolutely had an obligation to disclose to the public that she was censoring people,”
    slams Secretary Hobbs for having her office reach out to Twitter and censor its users.

    There were hundreds of thouands of illegal ballots counted in Arizona’s midterm elections — in Maricopa County alone.

    Almost 60% of Maricopa County’s voting machines failed on Election Day —that’s not a statistic you’ll see reported in our corporate media.

    There is no way that 59% of Maricopa County’s voting machines stopped working on Election Day by accident — and one day after being tested.

    Between November 9th and November 11th, Maricopa County suddenly discovered more than 25,000 additional ballots that needed to be counted. That’s suspicious because Katie Hobbs supposedly beat Kari Lake by 17,000 ballots — according to the certified results.

    Those 25,000 ballots magically appear in time to help Katie Hobbs — courtesy of a mysterious election contractor named Runbeck Election Services.

    An employee of Runbeck has testified that early vote (EV) ballots arrived without proper chain of custody paperwork — which is required by law.

    A prominent cybersecurity expert who tests voting machines for a living has provided a sworn declaration that the widespread equipment breakdown in Maricopa County must have been caused intentionally. He also confirms that some of the components of Arizona’s voting system are not certified — which violates Arizona law.

    Maricopa County officials like Stephen Richer were involved in serious conflicts of interest.

    Katie Hobbs — in her official role as Secretary of State — was busy censoring her political opponents too.

    9. At least 16 voting stations in Maricopa County mixed together uncounted ballots with already counted ballots — and they did so intentionally.

    Needless to say, Arizona’s midterm elections were an international embarrassment — and yet further proof that our constitutional republic has been replaced with a tyranny.

  5. At the present time I am reading a Book titled STALIN by Stephen Kotkin. I can understand where Stalin was coming from. At the time Russia was controlled by an autocracy as were most nations on earth. The Russian people lived in abject poverty. The problem was that Stalin replaced an autocracy with just another autocracy that clothed itself in altruistic motives. I tell you this story because Stalin was a man who used his law enforcement agencies to control what the Russian people could see and hear. There are those who post on this blog who consider such tactics to be not only permissible but also heartily approved of. They try to sugar coat it but through there comments they openly tell us that they approve of government controlled censorship. We should take them at their word. We should not lose sight of the probable outcome.

  6. Yesterday our leftist bloggers on this forum said there was no evidence that the FBI and the DHS met with Twitter. Now that the evidence is out they avoid the subject in every post. The fact is that an FBI agent had already testified in a court of law that there were frequent meetings between FBI agents and the heads of Twitter. These same posters say that they are so concerned about our Democracy but they then overlook the fact that agents of the government are controlling what you may say or here. I express my most heartfelt thanks that these narcissists are doing there best to save the world. Lenin would be proud.

    1. “Yesterday our leftist bloggers on this forum said there was no evidence that the FBI and the DHS met with Twitter”

      You’re a liar.

      Lenin would be proud indeed.

      1. Anonymous, once again you are calling me a liar. I stated that a leftist blogger on this forum said that there is no evidence that the FBI monitored Twitter content. This is what Svelaz said yesterday. Svelaz says: December 9, 2022 at 4:31 PM
        “TiT, your only argument is the FBI got involved and claim that they were telling twitter what to censor without evidence. That is not an argument. That’s just making assumptions on lack of evidence.” Now we know that the FBI and the DHS met with Twitter on a weekly basis. Of course Svelaz thinks that they were only having the meetings to share Grandma’s Christmas cookie recipe. Indeed, one of us is lying. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide if it’s me or you. I’m sure that your track record will be taken into account.

        1. No, Ti T, you didn’t say “A leftist blogger,” you said “our leftist bloggerS.” You’re a liar who is intelligent enough to understand the difference between (1) the PLURAL statement you made and I called you out on and (2) the SINGULAR statement that you’re now trying to move the goalposts to.

          If you’re making a claim only about Svelaz, you wouldn’t have said “our leftist bloggerS,” you would have said “Svelaz,” like you’re now doing.

          Readers caan see that you lied, and then you moved the goalposts to cover up your lie.

          1. So Anonymous, are you disagreeing with Svelaz when he says that Twitter did not meet with the FBI. Are you saying that Twitter meeting with the FBI to moderate content is a bad thing. Please make your position more clear about your not agreeing with Svelaz on this matter. I am sure your response will be quite interesting. Your expected lack of a response will also be quite interesting. Speak I pray thee. Speak

            1. If you’d bothered to read my other comments, you’d know that I’d pointed out to Daniel that Yoel Roth’s Dec. 2020 declaration has been public for 2 years. Roth worked for Twitter, and in his 2020 declaration he said “Since 2018, I have had regular meetings with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and industry peers regarding election security.”

              Unlike you, I’m truthful. You still can’t admit that you were lying about “our leftist bloggers” and then moved the goalposts.

              1. Anonymous, the point is that you refuse to discuss if the FBI meeting with twitter was a good idea. If the FBI had been meeting with Fox News you would have burned the house down. Now you dismiss it with a wave of your hand like it’s no big deal. It would seem to me that Roth saying that he was meeting with the federal government to determine who should be shadow banned would have set off alarms in the MSM. So just as it was then the MSM are not dedicating one minute of coverage to the Twitter Files. All the so called election security was applied to only one political party. One would think that you would be concerned about the forced silence of an opposition party but you are not concerned in the least. Lenin would be proud.

                1. No, actually, the point is that you lied and moved the goalposts, and now you’re trying to deflect, because you’re not truthful enough to admit your mistakes.

                  “If the FBI had been meeting with Fox News you would have burned the house down.”

                  You’re lying about me again.

                  “Roth saying that he was meeting with the federal government to determine who should be shadow banned …”

                  Now you’re lying about Roth, in the italicized part. That’s not what he said.

                  Why do you lie so much?

                  “One would think that you would be concerned …”

                  One would think that YOU would be concerned about the fact that you lie so much. Alas.

                  1. Well gee Anonymous what do you think the FBI was discussing with Roth? It must have just been about what they wanted to find in their Christmas stockings. Maybe they were just having a mildly spiked eggnog around the Christmas tree. Here’s one you can take out they exclaimed while clapping their hands together. Oh isn’t this so much fun. Did I tell you about the time that I bugged Guliani’s phone? What a leg slapper! Oh that was so much fun. Anonymous, do you think we are stupid enough not to know why the FBI was there? Any person who would think that the FBI was not making recommendations about who should be censored is the stupid one. Maybe they just had a friendly little game of cornhole. As you say everything was probably innocent. Har har.

              2. Anonymous, firstly who is Daniel and secondly please provide the comment you refer to about your statements concerning Yoel Roth’ declaration. Surely you can find it?

                1. Thinkitthrough: firstly, when are you going to admit that you lied and moved the goalposts?

                  Secondly, if you don’t know who Daniel is, that’s your problem — one that can be solved with a simple text search on his name.

                  Thirdly, your request is pretty amusing, because I pointed this out to YOU a few days ago, and in that comment to YOU, I gave you the timestamp of the comment I’d made to Daniel quoting from Roth’s declaration. Here’s the the comment I made to YOU about it (and I’ll leave it to you to search on the timestamp of my comment to Daniel with a different quote from the same 2020 declaration; if you were too lazy then and are still too lazy, that too is your problem):

          2. Wow, ATS is now harping on the letter, S, in blogger vs bloggers. Blogger can refer to Svelaz and bloggers can refer to Svelaz as well as additional others. This is pure ATS stupidity. ATS points out that the quote was from Svelaz, but if anyone wants to look they can probably find similar things from ATS (which makes the statement plural) if they weren’t removed from the blog.

            You have said a lot of stupid things ATS and they no longer exist on the blog.

          3. No, Ti T, you didn’t say “A leftist blogger,” you said “our leftist bloggerS.

            Our pedantic idiot continues to expose his lies.

            1. Apparently you don’t understand that if I say “iowan2 never admits when he’s wrong,” that’s true, but if I say “our rightists bloggers never admit when they’re wrong,” it would be false, because some rightist commenters do sometimes admit when they’re wrong. Thinkitthrough chose to make a false claim about the commenters on the left instead of making a claim only about Svelaz. That you consider the difference to be “pedantic” only underscores your inability or unwillingness to make relevant distinctions.

  7. Jonathan: For months before the midterms we were bombarded with GOP ads that focused on two issues–inflation and crime all caused by Joe Biden. At a recent press conference the new GOP House leadership didn’t say anything about lowering prices and fighting crime. Instead, they said their big priority was investigation Hunter and Joe Biden.

    Rep. James Comer, who is in line to chair the House Oversight Committee, says he wants to probe Hunter Biden’s business dealings with a Chinese energy conglomerate. And Joe Biden is also in Comer’s crosshairs. Comer thinks Biden was “compromised” by the money “his family has received from our adversaries in China, Russia and Ukraine”. I expect all of this will be music to your ears. Now I can sleep safely knowing the GOP will stop the Bidens. Perhaps, the GOP will also reopen the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s responsibility for the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. Soaring inflation and fighting crime will just have to wait. When it comes to the real threats to our Democracy–like Trump’s attempt to overthrow the government and his violations of the Espionage Act–that’s small potatoes compared to the “crimes” of the Bidens. So I don’t expect the House GOP will want to renew the mandate of the Jan. Committee. Nope. They will disband the Committee and try to bury its report.

    And I would expect the House GOP leadership will also want to pursue your claims that Twitter executives lied before Congress. About how they engaged in a “system of censorship and suppression of disfavored views”–to use your words. No doubt the House committee involved in this investigation will want to call you as a star witness. What’s not to like about the upcoming Congressional term. Fireworks like you won’t see on the Fourth of July! There is just one little problem with both investigations. There is no evidence so far Hunter Biden committed any crimes in connection with his foreign business dealings or that his dad benefited. The “Twitter Files” don’t expose anything except Hunter’s private parts. And despite how extensive was Twitter’s content moderation policies they, as a private company, did not violate the First Amendment rights of its users.

    So where does that leave us? Doesn’t look like the GOP House leadership will be dealing with the soaring cost of everything, crime, climate change, the high cost of child care. the lack of affordable housing or the myriad of other issues important to the American people. Nope it will be distraction and political stunts nonstop by the Republicans. But, hey, that’s how the system works. Isn’t it great to be an American?!

    1. Dennis McIntyre, you are correct. The Republicans have said that they will be investigating Joe Biden. Just because they didn’t say something about fighting crime and inflation in the same sentence it doesn’t mean that they can’t do both at the same time. It’s quite amazing that in your discourse you didn’t mention that your Democratic gods have done little to fight crime or inflation when they had control of both houses in congress. Silly fellow. Thanks for the laughs.

    2. In the last sentence of Dennis McIntyre’s post he says “Isn’t it great to be an American.” This is a very revealing statement. Dennis McIntyre finally lets it be known that he hates America. Dennis McIntyre is a lawyer. He has been afforded a high degree of education and his income is probably in the top one percent of income in the world. That is if he is a lawyer worth half his salt. So he sits in his fancy chair sipping his latte telling us how terrible life is in America. Once again Dennis, thanks for the laughs.

    3. “And despite how extensive was Twitter’s” suppression of opinions they did not like . . . Now the statement’s accurate. You know you’re in trouble when you have to “massage” the truth.

      “[Twitter], as a private company, did not violate the First Amendment rights of its users.”

      BS. As the good little fascists they were, as soon as they got in bed with government agents, they colluded to violate 1A.

      1. They didn’t violate the First Amendment. And if you actually want to understand why (which — based on your comments to date — I doubt), yesterday I referred you to the discussion about it from law prof. Steve Vladeck, citing relevant caselaw.

Leave a Reply