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The promised Twitter exposé by Elon Musk on the Hunter Biden story was a failure that doxxed numerous people

Elon Musk, a staunch advocate for free expression, is upset that Twitter hid a story regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop years ago, just before the 2020 presidential election. To “restore public faith” in Twitter, Musk said last month he would make internal memos public to explain what happened.

On Friday night, journalist Matt Taibbi, to whom Musk appears to have leaked the documents and coordinated the posting of his findings to Twitter, delivered the goods in the form of a long and laboriously slow tweet thread (it took a full two hours to complete).

The tweet including Jack Dorsey’s email address was subsequently removed by Taibbi.

Emails between Twitter executives, Biden campaign staff, and outside policy experts are captured in Taibbi’s thread. Even Twitter’s deputy general counsel sends a “confidential” message at one point.

It is clear from the emails that Twitter’s staff was at a loss as to how to justify their moderation judgement on the New York Post article that initially reported on Hunter’s lost laptop data. Twitter opted to prohibit links to or photographs of the Post’s report, citing its rules on the spread of stolen files, since it was unclear whether or not the documents were real at the time. Even back then, the decision sparked debate, mainly among Republicans but also among free speech advocates who were concerned about Twitter’s decision to block a news outlet.

Despite Musk’s hopes, the messages do not reveal a team arguing how to complete and express a tough moderating decision. Instead, they show a group contemplating how to behave in a manner that aided now-President Joe Biden.

“I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this unsafe,” one former communications staffer wrote. “Will we also mark similar stories as unsafe?” asked another.

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of trust and safety at the time, said the company had decided to err on the side of caution “given the SEVERE risks here and lessons of 2016.” Jim Baker, Twitter’s deputy general counsel, weighed in to agree that “it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been [hacked] and that caution is warranted.”

Even though Musk believes this proves government interference, that is obviously not the case.

The emails don’t reveal the process by which the decision was made; rather, they indicate that Twitter executives questioned the wisdom of the move in subsequent correspondence. According to Taibbi, the current and former CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, was unaware of the decision.

Musk seems to take the recent incidents as evidence of government interference. In reaction to one disclosed email, he said, “If this isn’t a violation of the First Amendment, what is?” However, it seems from the email that the Biden campaign, which is not a government agency, flagged tweets to Twitter for “review” under their moderation procedures before the election. According to Taibbi, “there’s no proof — that I’ve seen” that the government is involved in the laptop narrative.

Meanwhile, it seems that Dorsey’s and Representative Ro Khanna’s personal email addresses were made public due to Taibbi’s handling of the emails, which appear to have been supplied to him at Musk’s order, albeit he simply refers to “sources at Twitter.” One of the messages has an email address that Taibbi believes to be Dorsey’s, and in it, Dorsey is seen forwarding an article by Taibbi that criticises Twitter’s response to the Post report. Another email from what seems to be Khanna’s personal Gmail account expresses similar criticism of Twitter’s decision to limit the Post’s report.

Multiple Twitter workers who were involved in discussions concerning the moderation decision were identified in the piece. Journalists have a right to report on the participation of those who are in the public eye or who hold significant positions of power, but this does not apply to everyone listed in the hacked emails. The leaks might put some of those persons at risk of harassment, especially given the attention paid to Hunter’s laptop. Identifying individuals seems unnecessary to me. Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, seemed to mention the disclosures in a tweet he sent tonight, writing, “Seems risky.”

The tweet including Dorsey’s email address was subsequently removed by Taibbi. As of this writing, Khanna’s contribution is still available. Although The Verge attempted to contact Taibbi for comment, we have not yet received a response from him. Twitter, which last month eliminated its entire communications department as part of a round of layoffs, likewise did not provide a statement when contacted. Neither Khanna nor Dorsey responded right away to calls for comment.