In 2015, the world debated the color of a dress. Was it black and blue, or was it white and gold? These were simpler times. We were so innocent and full of hope. Science, if you trust that kind of thing, tells us color depends on an individual’s perception. A banana is yellow only because we’ve trained our retinas to focus on the wavelengths the fruit is reflecting and to ignore the colors it’s absorbing.
My perception of the color yellow is different from yours. That’s the gist of what we learned from that exercise. (Oh, and the dress was white and gold. No further questions.) Today we spend our days debating more serious, heady matters with online strangers. God forbid we go for a walk or hug our loved ones. Quick reminder: we and everyone we know and love will die soon. Still, the best way to avoid thinking about that fact is to distract ourselves by pledging allegiance to a tribe and doing everything in our power to humiliate a different tribe.
The latest battle in this petty, pointless war that can and never will be won is the release of “The Twitter Files.” With an assist from Elon Musk, journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss have each published long Twitter threads that show how executives at the social media company made decisions regarding content moderation.
Take your team’s jersey off for a moment. Feels good, right? Now that we can look at “The Twitter Files” objectively, it’s clear we’ve learned something valuable and interesting about how our modern-day global town square operated under previous leadership. Is it something we didn’t already know? That’s the debate. Luckily, we’ve removed our jerseys and put them in the closet for the time being.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
- The Trump White House and the Biden campaign both petitioned Twitter to delete tweets and/or remove accounts from the platform. Requests from both were received and honored.
- More requests from the left were honored than from the right.
- Twitter suppressed The New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story after briefings from the FBI warning them to be on the lookout for misinformation regarding Hunter Biden that would likely come from foreign adversaries. The warnings leading up to the election were general and vague; Taibbi could find no warnings specific to The New York Post’s laptop story.
- Twitter said the story was suppressed because of its “hacked materials” policy. The story wasn’t a violation of that policy, and the former Twitter executives involved in the decision have publicly expressed that it was a mistake to suppress the story.
- Former FBI general counsel Jim Baker, who resigned from the FBI in 2018 following accusations he was leaking damaging and false information regarding the Russian interference investigation against then-President Trump, was serving as Twitter’s Deputy General Counsel during this time and pushed for the Hunter Biden story to remain suppressed until they learned more information.
- Democratic congressman Ro Khanna believes in the First Amendment and free speech.
- Twitter employees built blacklists and prevented Tweets they didn’t like from trending.
- Stanford Dr. Jay Bhattacharya was blacklisted for arguing Covid lockdowns would harm children.
- A bunch of right-wing personalities and accounts were also blacklisted.
- Twitter’s former Head of Legal Policy and Trust, Vijaya Gadde, claimed in 2018, “We don’t shadow ban. And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.” The Twitter files seem to contradict that claim.
- According to Weiss’s reporting, these things were all done without users’ knowledge , and there was a “secret group” that basically consisted of the company’s top executives that would make these decisions.
As with everything that happens these days, how the above information is interpreted, discussed, and reported depends entirely on which tribe you’re affiliated with and what jersey you wear. Are the Twitter Files black and blue or white and gold?
Feel free to go get that jersey out of your closet, but before you do, might I suggest there are more useful and productive ways to live your life than to engage in these daily battles that seem to only serve the ruling class by distracting us from what they’re doing and how and why they’re doing it in the present day.
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