‘Industry’ and the State (Twitter Files 11 & 12)

Yves here. There’s been drinking-from-a-firehose level revelations from the Twitter files. Tom Neuburger goes though the latest batches, focusing on the most disturbing examples of Twitter subservience to censorship demands. These documents also show how troublingly cozy Twitter was with the CIA and FBI.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

Note from San Francisco FBI ASAC Elvis Chan to Yoel Roth, Twitter’s then-head of Trust and Safety

“When the government watches you twenty-four hours a day, you cannot use the word ‘liberty.’ That is the relationship between a master and a slave.”
—Chris Hedges, “America’s Theater of the Absurd

Two more Twitter Files have dropped, both by Matt Taibbi. They should be considered together, as a set.

In addition to my summary, this piece contains links to the releases, brief descriptions, and two supplementary interviews Taibbi has given explaining them. These interviews add new information, so I suggest listening if this interests you.

‘Industry’ and the State: Partners in Crime

If you read these files through, and I hope you do, pay attention to how often the word “partner” is used.

The FBI refers to its “industry partners” in their communication to Twitter — meaning, I believe, social media companies in general. And Twitter executives frequently refer to “our partners at the FBI.”

So where does the state end and “industry” begin? I’m not sure I can tell you. I can tell you that a surveillance state is not a friendly operation. Consider the Chris Hedges quote at the top. To be constantly watched is to be constantly controlled. We’ve seen the watching, been watching it for years. Now we see one of the mechanisms of control.

There is, in fact, a word for when a government entangles itself with the activities of corporations. Consider Benito Mussolini in 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, Rome: ‘Ardita’ Publishers (quoted here; emphasis mine):

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and usefu[l] instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management. (pp. 135-136)

Corporate “production” in the modern world includes digital and online products.

Links to Twitter Files 11 & 12

To jump immediately to these files, click the links below. Discussions of previously released Twitter Files can be found here, here and here.

• Twitter Files 11 — How Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In
Matt Taibbi, January 3, 2023
A differently titled version is also published at Taibbi’s Substack site.

30. “REPORTERS NOW KNOW THIS IS A MODEL THAT WORKS”
This cycle – threatened legislation, wedded to scare headlines pushed by congressional/intel sources, followed by Twitter caving to moderation asks – would later be formalized in partnerships with federal law enforcement.

• Twitter Files 12 Twitter and the FBI ‘Belly Button’
Matt Taibbi, January 3, 2023
A version is also published at Taibbi’s Substack site.

23. “BELLY BUTTON”
“We can give you everything we’re seeing from the FBI and USIC agencies,” Chan explained, but the DHS agency CISA “will know what’s going on in each state.” He went on to ask if industry could “rely on the FBI to be the belly button of the USG [U.S. government].

Links to Earlier Twitter Files

Links to all Twitter files can be found in the articles listed in the pulldown tab at the top of the God’s Spies main page:

There’s also a simple summary file here.

Twitter Files 11

Twitter Files 11 was titled “How Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In” when published on Twitter, and “Why Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In” when republished in essay form on Taibbi’s Substack site.

As Taibbi summarizes it, this set recaps “a furious fall of 2017 for Twitter, which began with threats of legislation and ended with the company surrendering control over content moderation.”

What’s notable is how the elements of the Democratic Party ecosystem seems to coordinate and amplify the attack by Sen. Warner (D-VA), who, as one Twitter executive writes, is “taking cues from Hillary Clinton.”

For example, here’s Politico:

And here’s a supposedly academic think tank at Johns Hopkins:

To all of which pressure, Twitter caved:

Twitter avatar for @mtaibbi

Matt Taibbi @mtaibbi
24.Twitter “pledged to work with them on their desire to legislate”:
Image

The above, to my eye, is damning. It represents complete surrender to the security state.

Twitter Files 12

Twitter Files 12, “Twitter and the FBI ‘Belly Button’”, picks up exactly whereTF 11 leaves off:

The Global Engagement Center, as Taibbi says in his interviews (see below), is a Hillary Clinton-era creation within the State Department to give them their own presence in the foreign intelligence arena:

4. The GEC flagged accounts as “Russian personas and proxies” based on criteria like, “Describing the Coronavirus as an engineered bioweapon,” blaming “research conducted at the Wuhan institute,” and “attributing the appearance of the virus to the CIA.” [link to image in full tweet]

There’s also a reference to “Blaming Bill Gates” in the lists of sins that the GEC thinks should get a Twitter user banned. Is there any question the government is a domestic propaganda operation at this point? The floodgates to capricious “moderation” have been opened wide.

The highlighted comment in this document from Yoel Roth is telling. Note that the attack he’s responding to comes from another academic think tank, this time at Clemson.

Asking if there’s any information they could provide to “help us make those links” seems uncomfortably close to looking for non-existent votes in Georgia, but maybe that’s just me.

One further note about the State Department’s GEC — at this point in its life, it’s being led by the Trump administration.

By October, the number of requests from all over the place — “Treasury, the NSA, virtually every state, the HHS, from the FBI and DHS” — was overwhelming. The value of the requests ranged from help with help with what were described as foreign ransomware actors, to requests to ban a journalist at the request of Adam Schiff, Democratic Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Note that the Committee wanted to ban searches related to its staff members as well.

Though Twitter declined these requests, it honored almost all of the others.

The rest of the thread details the overwhelming amount of work that Twitter was asked to do, and from every direction. It’s a stunning (and not difficult) read. A “master-canine” relationship indeed.

One of these creatures is Twitter and one is the U.S. Government

Taibbi ends by noting that even though Twitter was paid almost $3.5 million for what was essentially contract labor, “they were underpaid.”

Supplemental — Interviews Discussing Twitter Files 11 & 12

Taibbi has been making the rounds since these two releases. Here he discusses TF 11 and TF 12 with Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief at the Intercept, and Emily Jashinsky, co-hosts of Counterpoints.

Note Grim’s questions. Also note that Taibbi says more here than he wrote in the Files themselves.

The Lee Fang story that Grim refers to is here.

And here’s a recent interview with Taibbi on Richard Eskow’s Zero Hourprogram. Again, good questions and answer that go beyond what’s said in the Files themselves.

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10 comments

  1. John R Moffett

    I have friends who say I am nuts when I mention stories like this and say the government, corporate news and tech industries work together to keep the public misinformed. So obviously, the attempt to keep people on board with the status quo is working with plenty of people in the US. The usual point they make is that it would be impossible to get all those people in the corporate news to lie in unison. Even pointing out things like lies about WMD in Iraq or the breakdown of Russiagate, or even the Twitter files does not seem to penetrate this fog of misunderstanding.

    Reply
    1. Noor Safi

      It’s quite something how successfully western censorship regimes are obfuscated by a vernacular of ‘misinformation’ and foreign intelligence operations – an alliance of technocratic thinking and xenophobia. Many are somehow able to reconcile this contradiction with a residual image of their society as one of open and free dialogue.

      If this is how Twitter operates domestically, consider the danger of allowing it to operate in China, Iran et al? States that have banned Twitter are proven to be right.

      Reply
    2. Rolf

      I’ve had the identical impression: the campaign of obfuscation is quite successful, and the public’s attention span sufficiently brief — or, to be fair, MSM’s fluffy torrent of irrelevant distraction simply too uniform and strong — for truth to gain much purchase. And people now easily dismiss any arguments that conflict with “cOnSpiRacY tHEoRy!”, “fAkE nEWs!” …

      Reply
    3. KLG

      Same here. The Liberal (capital “L”, Dem and GOP alike) has a mind like a steel trap, but one that has been rusted shut since at least Election Day 2016. With most of them the rust goes back to the 1992 election.

      “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”
      – James Danforth Quayle, 1989

      Reply
    4. Carolinian

      impossible to get all those people in the corporate news to lie in unison.

      See this morning’s Caitlin link. It used to be competitive news organizations would try to scoop each other. Now it’s the “nail sticking up gets hammered down,”

      I’ve been reading an interesting and timely new book on J. Edgar Hoover (G-man:J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century) and it talks about how Hoover, not the erratic McCarthy, was the driving force behind the fifties blacklists. He did this by establishing alliances with like minded journalists and Congressmen and feeding them the FBI’s vast archive of surveillance information. And it wasn’t just about the Communist Party. Hoover was gay and not enthusiastic about the Lavender Scare but still provided government agencies with info on who in their offices were gay and therefore appropriate to be fired as “security risks” (thousands in the end).

      Hoover justified himself by saying his agents were “professionals” who played by the rules–unlike the rival CIA–but if there is a Deep State then one powerful bureaucrat working out his own obsessions with communism and race would be it. The conclusion is that secret government agencies encourage abuse, rules or not. And journalists with their power groupie attitudes are easy dupes.If Trump had stroked them more they undoubtedly would have been a lot less hostile. Unlike Hoover he didn’t know how to play the bureaucratic game.

      Reply
  2. griffen

    I currently lack the bandwidth to dive into these stories and the inner workings that are revealed. But I do find this whole thread starting in early December just very compelling, and an interesting reveal behind the curtain. Behold the mighty Oz.

    Reply
  3. lyman alpha blob

    One thing I’ve mentioned before that you had to piece together several years ago but is now coming out loud and clear thanks to these revelations is Sen. Mark Warner’s involvement in all this.

    It’s very important to note that the government asked the social media companies for evidence of “Russian interference” in the elections, and they at first replied that there wasn’t any. It was after that that Warner was sent out to help these companies get their minds right and find something, whether there was really anything to find or not. It was only then that we were regaled with the Rainbow Bernie ads and the like.

    Thanks to Taibbi for releasing this and for Neuberger and everyone else who is reporting on it all. This is a huge public service.

    Reply
  4. Alan Roxdale

    Thanks for posting a Twitter Files story. Too many people are avoiding this over partisanship. But this is way beyond normal politics, I would say this is politically historical from the outset. How often do you get this kind of fly-on-the-wall insight into major government overreaches? I can only think of the Nixon Tapes or Pentagon papers. It’s politics, law, tech, drama, history all in one. You could write a TV show with all this! People are missing out.

    This is THE biggest tech story since Snowden at least. Hopefully posts like this will help ignite up some of the old hacker cokes smothered in secular politics.

    Reply
  5. Jeremy Grimm

    This post discusses the extent that the u.s. government controls the content of Twitter — control over both what is said and what is not. I am curious what the u.s. government might do with some of the material it blocks. Are collections of postings by ‘persons-of-interest’ kept in files somewhere as evidence — or for other uses — later, something like the files J. Edgar Hoover assembled on the targets he identified.

    Reply
  6. spud

    i think mussolinni also said we shall take from the state that which it is incompetent with, or something like that, regarding economic polices.

    this says it all, and why i say free trade is fascism,

    https://mpbritt.com/understanding-what-fascism-is-and-isnt/

    “fascism is a variant of capitalist rule in which the most reactionary capitalists, specially finance capitalists, resort to when their rule is threatened. This has to be understood, because eventually fascism can return if you maintain the underlying socio-economic system that fascism comes from – capitalism. Capitalism has three outcomes: fascism as it becomes threatened, defeat by socialism, or the exhaustion of resources and destruction of the world.”

    https://againstthecurrent.org/atc194/antifa5/

    “Fascist rule, however, confronts a fundamental contradiction. Remilitarization plus spending on the social measures necessary to sustain popular support had to be paid for, but without excessively taxing the industrialists and large landowners. This could be done only by plunder, domestically by confiscating Jewish properties and internationally by invading and seizing the wealth, especially the raw materials, of other countries. Hence fascism’s imperialist dynamic.”

    https://voxday.net/2014/02/24/free-trade-is-global-fascis/

    “But to fulfill its full potential the multinational corporation must be able to operate with little regard for national boundaries – or, in other words, for restrictions imposed by individual national governments.”

    Reply

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