- Conservative commentator Bari Weiss just dropped "episode 2" of the "Twitter Files."
- The new information dump focused on content moderation.
- The first installation was dropped Friday by journalist Matt Taibbi.
The "Twitter Files" part two on Thursday claimed to "reveal" a "secret" operation in which the platform limited the reach of certain accounts and posts — but Twitter's practice of hiding some tweets hasn't been a secret at all, and what she outlined sounds similar to a December 2 policy announced by Twitter owner Elon Musk.
Journalist and conservative commentator Bari Weiss published the latest thread, hyped up by Twitter's new owner Elon Musk, writing that "teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users."
Twitter first announced in 2018 it would effectively hide some tweets from conversations and search results, according to The Washington Post's Will Oremus. Twitter at the time said it would look at the way other individuals reacted to an account in order to avoid showing tweets that "detract" from conversations.
Critics, and there were many, especially as prominent Republicans were impacted, referred to Twitter's practice of limiting certain tweets' visibility as "shadowbanning." But Twitter disputed the characterization and said it disliked the term "shadowban," noting the tweets were not being removed from the platform, but removed from search and more difficult to find.
In her thread, Weiss said Twitter's Strategic Response Team - Global Escalation Team, known as SRT-GET, was the body tasked with deciding which users were marked for "visibility filtering."
"Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It's a very powerful tool," one senior Twitter employee said, per Weiss.
But, she said, Twitter's Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support team known as "SIP-PES, which Weiss described as a group of top executives, was charged with making the most "politically sensitive" decisions.
She name-checked several conservative accounts that she said were impacted. But Weiss did not add any context in her thread as to why these accounts were impacted or if any Twitter rules were violated or not or who ultimately. made the call to add them to search or trending blacklists.
The description outlined by Weiss of Twitter's internal moderation policy appears to fall in line with Musk's own recently-announced approach to content moderation on the site: "Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom of reach. Negativity should & will get less reach than positivity," he tweeted on December 2.
Insider's Kali Hayes reported earlier this week that Weiss was among a new crop of colleagues that CEO Elon Musk was bringing into the Twitter fold. She was given access to Twitter's employee systems, added to the company Slack, and issued a company laptop, two people told Insider. But Weiss, a former New York Times columnist, is not thought to be a current employee at Twitter.
Several reporters with Weiss's outlet The Free Press were also involved in reporting the story, she said, and had "broad and expanding" access to Twitter files.
"The only condition we agreed to was that the material would first be published on Twitter," she wrote.
For Musk's part, he followed-up by announcing that "Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you've been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal."
Thursday's thread was the second such installation
The Thursday tweet thread came nearly a week after the first, in which independent journalist Matt Taibbi wrote that Twitter received and granted some content moderation requests, including from the Trump White House and Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign. On his Substack, Taibbi said that in order to cover the story he "had to agree to certain conditions" but did not specify what they were.
According to available internet archives, at least some of the posts the Biden campaign requested be removed included nude photos that would have violated Twitter's terms of service under its non-consensual nudity policy. Taibbi did not include any examples of the White House requests.
Taibbi also said the content moderation favored Democrats, citing campaign donations made by Twitter staff, but did not provide evidence that tweets were removed even if they did not violate the terms of service.
Musk retweeted Taibbi's initial thread adding, "Here we go!" along with two popcorn emojis. He teased "episode 2" of the series, writing on Friday that the next installment come the following day, only to follow that announcement up a day later with: "Looks like we will need another day or so."
Despite, Musk's assertions, Twitter's actions were not in violation of the First Amendment because "Twitter is not a state actor and the First Amendment applies only to state actors," Doron Kalir, a professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, previously told Insider.
He explained that the First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," and because Twitter is not considered the government, and is instead an independent company, it does not fall under the First Amendment.
"Federal courts in the United State have ruled time and again, and as recently as 2020, that those digital platforms are not state actors, therefore they are not the government, and the government cannot restrict them in any way," Kalir said, referencing the 2020 case Prager University v. Google LLC, in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled YouTube was not a state actor.