In the two years since, it has been determined that the emails were genuine. They came, as the Post said, from a repair shop in Delaware where Hunter had left his laptop. There was no Russian hack.
At the time, a whirlwind of internal emails were circulating on Twitter. Musk has now allowed it Matt Taibi, a journalist, to gain access to it. They exposed the anger of the Trump campaign when Kayleigh McEnany, a White House press secretary, lost access to her account because she tweeted about the mail story.
The Trump campaign emailed Twitter asking why they were now “censoring articles” and demanding Ms. McEnany’s reinstatement. “At least act like you care [about impartiality] for the next 20 days,” the Trump team wrote.
Caroline Strom, a Twitter public policy officer, asked staff to “take a closer look” at the matter. She was told by Twitter’s Site Integrity team that McEnany’s mention of the laptop had been “bounced for violating our Hacked Materials Policy.”
According to internal documents, Twitter had received a blanket warning from police over the summer about hacking abroad, but nothing specific.
Decisions to censor stories about the laptop as “hacked material” were made without the knowledge of the CEO, Jack Dorsey, according to the documents.
In the 2020 election, 98.5 percent of online political donations by Twitter employees went to Democratic candidates, most of them to Biden. The internal emails did not state whether that affected moderation decisions.
According to Taibbi, a former staff member, the censoring of the story was “freelance”, adding: “Within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized this wasn’t going to last. But nobody had the guts to reverse it.”
Requests to remove tweets had become commonplace from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign. On Oct. 24, the Biden campaign emailed to have five tweets about Hunter — including nude photos and videos — removed, which happened under the platform’s revenge pornography policy.
As executives debated the censorship of the laptop story, a communications officer wrote to colleagues, “I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe.”
He said Twitter would be faced with “tough questions” without “proper reasoning”.
Yoel Roth, who was Twitter’s head of trust and security, responded that it was an “emerging situation” and cited the “SERIOUS risks here and lessons of 2016.” He said clicking the link to the story would bring up an “unsafe” warning, which “wasn’t ideal, but it’s all we got.”
An internal email from Jim Baker, Twitter’s deputy general counsel who had been FBI general counsel in its investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, said: “There are some facts that indicate that the material may has been hacked, while others indicate that the computer has been left behind and/or that the owner has agreed to allow the repair shop to access it for at least certain purposes. We just need more information.”
Twitter was under pressure to unblock the block New York Post from Ro Khanna, the left Democratic congressman.
He emailed Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s chief legal officer, saying, “A journalist should not be held responsible for the source’s illegal actions unless they actively contributed to the hack.”
Khanna was sad that he wanted his “two cents” to be kept between Gadde and “Jack”, meaning Dorsey. The Daily telegram contacted Khanna for comment.
Biden’s campaign vigorously disputed that he did anything wrong, saying he knew nothing about his son’s foreign business dealings, but did not dispute the laptop’s authenticity.
Finally, Dorsey unblocked the Post’s account on October 30, four days before the election and with early voting already underway.
He later said the decision to censor the laptop story had been a “total mistake”.
Of course, it’s impossible to say what impact the story would have had on the election results if Twitter hadn’t shut it down.