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Elon Musk’s first Twitter manipulation effort was a big flop

The “Twitter Files” he helped promote were supposed to be a smoking gun about Democratic election interference at Twitter. The revelations fell far short.


Over the weekend, conservatives, led by Elon Musk, tried to whip up right-wing fury and manufacture a political scandal after Musk had promised to share evidence of Twitter wickedly wielding its influence over U.S. elections. Ultimately, the “proof” fell far short of being the smoking gun that right-wingers had promised. 

Essentially, what we got from conservatives was just a Twitter regurgitation of the same conspiratorial claims that got then-President Donald Trump impeached back in 2019: that Democrats nefariously worked to suppress stories about unproven wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son — behavior that Trump and fellow Republicans baselessly allege the elder Biden worked to cover up as well.

It’s noteworthy that, years into this right-wing conspiracy about the president’s son, Republicans have presented no proof of its veracity. On the other hand, news reports and government probes have found that foreign adversaries have helped spread claims about the Biden family in a seeming effort to sow division in U.S. politics, similar to Russia’s strategy in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. With that in mind, it’s understandable why (reasonable) people in charge of social networks would be cautious — even hyper-cautious — about sharing something perceived to be potentially foreign-sourced disinfo.

Ultimately, that’s all that the author of the “Twitter Files,” conservative Substack writer Matt Taibbi, was able to report from the scores of documents he supposedly received from Twitter employees: that the company, which rightly faced blowback for allowing disinformation on its platform during the 2016 election, debated internally whether and how to prevent a story involving Hunter Biden from taking hold on the site in October 2020. (Taibbi also seems to have revealed some personal email addresses after appearing to share the documents at Musk’s direction.)

Unfortunately for GOPers, Taibbi blunted the explosiveness of his report — shared in a long, conspiratorial Twitter thread — with a few admissions about his findings. For example, he admits that, after poring through documents, he found no evidence that government officials had pressured Twitter to curb the spread of the story. (After all, Trump was still president in 2020, when the alleged “controversy” occurred.)

Beyond that, we also never get an explanation as to why Twitter, an independent company, should have been obligated to share a dubious story about the Biden family — other than the fact Republicans wanted it to happen. 

In fact, Business Insider took a look at several tweets the Biden campaign asked Twitter to take down in 2020, and found they included nude images of Hunter Biden leaked to the internet without his permission

(This revelation earned Musk some mockery, including from tech enthusiasts who’ve long followed his career.) 

Only in a warped, right-wing mind can refusal to post these images amount to a scandal. Quite ironic coming from the party of purportedly free enterprise, no? On one hand, Republicans claim businesses shouldn’t be obligated to do humane things like serve gay customers. But on the other hand, they claim Twitter had an obligation to help share nudes belonging to Biden’s son. 

Make it make sense.