For the past couple of weeks Elon Musk has been dispatching his flagrantly biased and incurious yellow journalists to propagate obvious falsehoods about Twitter’s previous management. His intent has been to discredit them as disreputable Trump haters and submissive servants of clandestine FBI handlers.
After seven tediously long document dumps of what were private, internal communications, Musk and Company pitifully failed to prove their predetermined conclusions, or whatever they imagined was their point. To the contrary, these much ballyhooed excretions of mostly random and irrelevant emails actually proved that Twitter’s Trust and Safety team acted responsibly to protect the website – and the nation – from documented propaganda and disinformation by Russia and other hostile foreign actors.
Musk’s minions only succeeded in showing that Twitter’s staff was not biased against Trump. In fact, they were decidedly fair in their analysis and decisions. But that didn’t stop the right-wingnut echo chamber from latching onto Musk’s muckrakers, especially Donald Trump…
The latest batch from the “Twitter Files” trash heap (Part 7) continued in the tradition of the previous six. This episode’s author, Michael Shellenberger, promised that he would “present evidence” that the FBI sought to “discredit leaked information about Hunter Biden.” Not only did he present no such evidence, he actually presented evidence of the opposite. Such as one email wherein “Twitter debunked false claims” of foreign influence. And another wherein “Twitter’s [Yoel] Roth has pushed back against the FBI.”
Despite that demonstration of fairness and good judgement, Fox News ran with a particularly deviated narrative. The headline for their “reporting” said that the “FBI Paid $3.5M To Suppress Hunter Laptop Story.”
You have to go through a LOT of hoops to conclude that the FBI paid Twitter $3.5 million to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story.
The email in question says Twitter collected $3,415,323 since Oct. 2019 to process legal requests made by the FBI. pic.twitter.com/i0yTCEDcCD
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) December 21, 2022
To the surprise of no one who has watched Fox News for more than a few minutes, that headline – and the accompanying story – was just plain untrue. What Fox News used to craft their false framing was one of Shellenberger’s points where he claimed that “The FBI’s influence campaign may have been helped by the fact that it was paying Twitter millions of dollars for its staff time.” He elaborated with a quote from an unnamed Twitter staffer who reported that “we have collected $3,415,323 since October 2019.”
Fox News is deliberately misinterpreting that as the FBI paying Twitter to get them to suppress a story about Hunter Biden. In reality, the FBI is reimbursing Twitter for the time they spent working on requests for information by the FBI. That is a legally mandated payment that requires that “a governmental entity obtaining the contents of communications, records, or other information … shall pay to the person or entity assembling or providing such information a fee for reimbursement for such costs as are reasonably necessary.”
As if that weren’t enough, there isn’t even any connection in the emails that were released between the FBI reimbursements and any story about Hunter Biden. Musk and Fox News just totally manufactured that.
Furthermore, the reports that the FBI “demanded” certain actions be taken by Twitter, and that Twitter obediently complied, are also untrue. And, once again, the facts were tucked away in Musk’s own document dump that disclosed that the FBI’s requests could not be remotely characterized as demands. They were merely notices about “accounts which may potentially constitute violations of Twitter’s Terms and Service for any action or inaction deemed appropriate within Twitter policy.” (emphasis added)
This is the sort of manipulation that Fox News engages in on a daily (hourly) basis. They have no regard for the truth. They are only interested in disseminating distortions that advance their ultra-conservative agenda. It’s how they can take mundane irrelevancies and magnify them into explosive pseudo-scandals.
UPDATE: The FBI responds: “The correspondence between the FBI and Twitter show nothing more than examples of our traditional, longstanding and ongoing federal government and private sector engagements. […] As evidenced in the correspondence, the FBI provides critical information to the private sector in an effort to allow them to protect themselves and their customers. […] It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.”
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