Think what you want of Elon Musk: There is no denying the historical importance of his decision to shine a light on the innermost workings of Twitter. The so-called Twitter Files have revealed the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s efforts to suppress and discredit the Hunter Biden laptop story, potentially influencing the outcome of the 2020 presidential election; the existence of hidden blacklists of Twitter users; the widespread use of “shadowbanning”; and the way executives rewrote the platform’s policies on the fly to accommodate political bias and pressure.
Now add the Covid element. On Monday, US journalist David Zweig—one of the few progressive reporters to criticize the West’s Covid response—revealed that he had been asked to examine what the Twitter archives had to say about the “content-moderation policies” employed by the company throughout the pandemic.
His findings confirm what various leaks, Freedom of Information Act requests, and ongoing lawsuits had already begun to disclose. “The United States government pressured Twitter to elevate certain content and suppress other content about Covid-19 and the pandemic,” says Zweig, who claims he viewed internal email showing “that both the Trump and Biden administrations directly pressed Twitter executives to moderate the platform’s content according to their wishes.”
At the outset of the pandemic, the Trump administration was apparently very concerned about panic buying and sought “help from the tech companies to combat misinformation,” according to emails sent by Twitter employees in the wake of meetings with the White House. The meetings were also attended by senior staffers from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and others.