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Elon Musk speaks out on 'Twitter Files' release detailing platform's inner workings

CNN 12/4/2022 Ramishah Maruf
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Twitter owner Elon Musk spoke out on Saturday evening about the so-called “Twitter Files,” a long tweet thread posted by journalist Matt Taibbi, who had been provided with details about behind-the-scenes discussions on Twitter’s content moderation decision-making, including the call to suppress a 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden and his laptop.

During a two-hour long Twitter Spaces session, Musk said a second “Twitter Files” drop will again involve Taibbi, along with journalist Bari Weiss, but did not give an exact date for when that would be released. His first drop, which was advertised by Musk as a bombshell and ‘awesome,’ was instead largely seen as lackluster.

The session, which Musk said he had joined from his private jet, was rife with technical difficulties.

Musk – who claims to have not read the released files himself – said the impetus for the original tweet thread was about what happened in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and “how much government influence was there.”

Taibbi’s first thread reaffirmed how, in the initial hours after the Post story about Hunter Biden went live, Twitter employees grappled with fears that it could have been the result of a Russian hacking operation. It showed employees on several Twitter teams debating over whether to restrict the article under the company’s hacked materials policy, weeks before the 2020 election.

While some questioned the basis for the decision, others within the company said the circumstances surrounding the story were unclear and recommended caution, according to screenshots of internal communications shared by Taibbi.

The emails Taibbi obtained are consistent with what former Twitter site integrity head Yoel Roth told journalist Kara Swisher in an onstage interview last week. Taibbi said the contact from political parties happened more frequently from Democrats, but provided no internal documents to back up his assertion. He did not mention whether Democrats requested that Twitter suppress the Post story, and his account did not suggest that the US government had pressured Twitter to suppress the story.

Musk on Saturday also criticized the mainstream media for downplaying the “Twitter Files” release, while accusing news organizations – particularly the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post – of “setting agendas.” In its coverage of the story, the Washington Post had concluded “it produced no smoking gun.”

During the wide-ranging session, Musk spoke on many other topics, including suggesting that US citizens, not the government, should be able to decide the fate of Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor who leaked intelligence secrets in 2013.

Musk also said Twitter should program and monetize native long audio and video posting. He also mentioned that he met disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried in March, and that his “BS meter went off,” while doubling down on his claim that Twitter never took any investment from Bankman-Fried nor FTX.

Bankman-Fried told Axios last week that he isn’t sure of what happened to the $100 million stake his Alameda Research trading vehicle owned in Twitter. He is quoted as saying that some of the investment may have been sold before Twitter went private in October, but he wasn’t sure.

Musk also said that Twitter will roll out its new account verifications within the next week, which had been halted.

CNN’s Brian Fung contributed to this report

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