The Mediaverse by Dennis Kneale, TruthDAO opinion columnist
"Inside the Twitter Files" is a special three-part Mediaverse series on how some in the news media have covered the release of internal conversations among Twitter employees and government officials related to the social network’s policies and decisions.
The Twitter Files exposè is one of the biggest scandals in decades in business, politics, and government—and most media outlets are ignoring it or undermining it.
Many Americans might feel outraged by the latest revelations: The FBI used Twitter as a veritable private listening post to monitor, restrain, and censor the comments and retweets of even small-time accounts on the social media platform.
A total of 80 FBI agents assigned to a social-media SWAT team are “in contact with Twitter for all sorts of reasons,” journalist Matt Taibbi reports. He calls it a “grotesque master-and-canine relationship,” with Twitter staff eagerly seeking the approval of their FBI overlords.
Taibbi says the FBI and Twitter’s chief censor, Yoel Roth, exchanged “over 150 emails” from January 2020 to November 2022. This means the coziness continued well into the Biden administration.
This included “a surprisingly high number” of FBI requests to censor supposed election misinformation, “even involving joke tweets from low-follower accounts,” Taibbi said.
His newsletter to subscribers describes this in stunning and alarming terms, no matter what your political bent.
“We now have clear evidence that agencies like the FBI and the DHS are in the business of mass-analyzing social media activity—your tweets and mine, down to the smallest users with the least engagement—and are, themselves, mass-marking posts to be labeled, “bounced,” deleted or “visibility filtered’ by firms like Twitter.
“The FBI is not doing this as part of any effort to build criminal cases. (Italics mine.) They’ve taken on this new authority unilaterally, as part of an apparently massive new effort to control and influence public opinion.”
Tap-tap-tap!!! Hello New York Times and Washington Post and CNN—is this mic on? They and the rest of the mainstream media have devoted little to zero coverage to the Twitter Files, like a bad cop who looks the other way. See my Mediaverse column last week.
This is a monumental story, and the media want to bury it. Keith Kelly, who wrote 2,000 Media Ink columns for the New York Post, told me here that this story warrants far more coverage than it is getting.
In contrast, when Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, briefly suspended the accounts of reporters for the Times, Washington Post, and CNN and a few others on Thursday, the big guns of the liberal media finally woke up and took notice—skipping past #TheTwitterFiles6 to focus on themselves.
It was as if the Hindenburg had crashed in flames all over again: oh, the humanity! Musk’s move “alarmed free-speech advocates,” the Times reported, solemnly, quoting a spokesman for CNN criticizing same. CNN called the suspensions “impulsive and unjustified,” and Washington Post editor Sally Buzbee said the suspension of Post scribe Drew Harwell “directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.”
C’mon, ma’am. Even as the reporters’ Twitter accounts were silenced for a short while, they still could tell their stories in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and on CNN.
That used to be a big deal, remember when? Now, apparently, this no longer is sufficient. They need Twitter, which is one reason they continue to criticize Elon Musk.
The 12-digit billionaire restored the journalists’ accounts a day later, having made his point: what a bunch of babies. He said the reporters were promoting a now-banned account that tweeted updates of the exact current location of Elon’s private jet, which he viewed as publishing “assassination coordinates.”
This is understandable: on Wednesday, (Dec. 14) Musk tweeted video of a "crazy stalker" in black-bloc and a black facemask—antifa-style. Musk said the man had tailed a car carrying Musk’s toddler son and at one point had climbed on the car’s hood. Intimidation.
Now that the reporters’ Twitter accounts have been restored, might they find time to report on the Twitter Files and all the government and private misdeeds the files reveal? Doubtful: the media seemingly are on a mission to explain away this story and say it doesn’t matter at all.
And that is the subject of Part 2, coming up next.
Dennis Kneale, @denniskneale on Twitter, is a media strategist and writer in New York. He spent more than 30 years at The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, and Fox Business. His podcast is called "What's Bugging Me."
Elon Musk is the Media’s new Public Enemy No. 1 (Nov. 6, 2022)
The Media Are Yawning at the Twitter Files (Dec. 9, 2022)