According to documents released Friday by Matt Taibbi, staffers of Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff from California repeatedly asked Twitter to censor or suppress any posts made by users on the social networking platform.
Schiff’s office asked for the complete removal of all search results regarding [Schiff staffer Sean] Misko, and other committee staffers.” This request was denied by Twitter as it is against its rules. The Democratic National Committee and Schiff’s staff requested Twitter to remove a tweet from April 26, 2020 that contained an edited GIF showing Joe Biden sticking out his tongue after Donald Trump retweeted the message. This request was denied by Twitter staff, according to the documents.
In an April email, Yoel Roth, a former head of trust safety and security wrote that “This is a very clearly edited GIF created in humorous intent.” The documents reveal that it was sent on February 27, 2020. It is obvious that the email was doctored. There is no harm to anyone. It is not against our rules.
However, Schiff staffer Jeff Lowenstein expressed concern about the post’s “slippery slope”, as the documents show. Lowenstein raised concerns to Twitter staff that, even though the April 26, 2020 tweet contained edited content, Twitter must have clear rules to ensure it can quickly respond to “more malicious” and “less obvious[ly]” edited material.
Taibbi reported previously on January 3, 2023 that Schiff’s office had requested Twitter to ban Paul Sperry, an investigative journalist, and to remove content related to Schiff staffers in a November 2019 request. Although Twitter initially refused to ban Sperry in August 2022, it eventually suspended him.
According to documents, Twitter did not respond to requests for bans but it did deamplify or reduce the reach accounts that promoted content about QAnon. Schiff’s office appreciated the effort to deamplify users’ content but was concerned that it might “inadvertently impede law enforcement’s ability” to locate threats to Congressional staff.
The Twitter CEO Elon Musk, along with the journalists, has previously released documents, called “The Twitter Files”. These documents show a close relationship between Twitter, intelligence agencies, and the FBI. The FBI regularly queries the social media platform for content removal.