Ex-NYT columnist swipes media downplaying Twitter Files: ‘Less interesting’ Facebook leaks made front pages

Former New York Times media columnist Ben Smith took a swipe at the lack of coverage Elon Musk’s “Twitter Files” have been receiving from the legacy press.

“Of course the ‘Twitter files’ are a story,” Smith wrote in his newsletter on Sunday. “Elon Musk’s selective release of internal correspondence has shed some light on how Twitter clamped down on voices it deemed extreme and misleading, mostly on the right and far right. Less interesting leaks from Facebook made front pages for years.”

Smith, who left the Times earlier this year to launch the digital outlet Semafor, compared the release of the Twitter Files reported by “sympathetic independent journalists” Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss to WikiLeaks releasing hacked DNC documents during the 2016 presidential election, writing the Twitter Files are “intended to be a strategic drip, drip targeting enemies” and that data dumps are “higher integrity.”

“But most of all Musk is feeding an obsession on the right that reminds me of something else in 2016,” Smith wrote. “After Brexit and Trump, Democrats woke up convinced that Republicans had won through some technical trick. They told themselves a confusing story that had the Russians taking over Western elections through a company called Cambridge Analytica. Now, it’s Republicans who keep losing and can’ t figure out why.”

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Smith added, “Those obsessions are great for racking up retweets, but electoral poison. This decade’s political losers tend to mistake social media for society. They, for instance, go around telling people that Twitter rigged a presidential race, which is the degraded end state of Donald Trump’s election fraud claims.”

Semafor co-founder and former New York Times media columnist Ben Smith says “of course” the Twitter Files is a story.
((Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images))

Ever since Taibbi and Weiss began reporting on the “Twitter Files,” several members of the legacy media including from NBC News, CNN and the Washington Post have attempted to dismiss the findings as “nothingburgers.”

The three broadcast networks have virtually given zero coverage to each of the installments of the “Twitter Files” with CBS offering roughly 30 seconds first the first installment with ignoring the rest like ABC and NBC.

CNN and MSNBC, meanwhile, have put less emphasis on the revelations from the tech giant and kept their ire on its new owner, Elon Musk.

Elon Musk has released the so-called "Twitter Files" through independent journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss.

Elon Musk has released the so-called “Twitter Files” through independent journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss.
(Getty Pictures)

Earlier this month, Taibbi went viral with the first installment of the “Twitter Files” which focused on Twitter’s internal discussions leading to it censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election with some officials struggling to explain how it violated its “hacked materials “policies.

It was later revealed that the first batch of “Twitter Files” were vetted without Musk’s knowledge by Twitter deputy general counsel Jim Baker, who previously served as the FBI’s general counsel and was involved in the Russia probe. That led to Baker’s firing.

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Baker was swept up Taibbi’s reporting about the suppression of the Hunter Biden story, telling his colleagues at the time, “I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked” but added, “it’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted.”

Additionally, Taibbi initially reported “Although several sources recalled hearing about a ‘general’ warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence – that I’ve seen – of any government involvement in the laptop story.” It is unclear whether Baker’s involvement in vetting the “Twitter Files” led Taibbi to draw that conclusion and whether Baker omitted files that would have shown the federal government intervening in Twitter’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.

Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker was fired by Elon Musk upon learning that the former FBI official had vetted the first Bach of the "Twitter Files" without Musk's knowledge.

Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker was fired by Elon Musk upon learning that the former FBI official had vetted the first Bach of the “Twitter Files” without Musk’s knowledge.
(Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

The second installment published by Bari Weiss revealed Twitter’s “blacklisting” of prominent conservatives including Fox News host Dan Bongino, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk as well as Stanford University’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a longstanding opponent of COVID groupthink during the pandemic who expressed opposition to lockdowns, revealing Twitter did shadow-ban its users (though calling it visibility filtering” despite repeated denials including under oath by then-CEO Jack Dorsey to Congress.

Internal communications also reveal Twitter staffers admitting that the popular account Libs of TikTok never violated its “hateful conduct” policy despite being punished several times for allegedly doing so.

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The third, fourth and fifth installments of the “Twitter Files” focused on the permanent suspension of former President Trump in the days leading up to Jan. 6 and the aftermath of its actions.

Taibbi reported that Yoel Roth, Twitter’s then-trust and safety chief, met with the FBI, DHS and the office of the DNI on a weekly basis in the weeks leading up the 2020 presidential election and even flagged tweets for Twitter to censor. He also revealed internal messages of staffers expressing outraged towards Trump’s tweets on Jan. 6.

Over the weekend, writer Michael Shellenberger revealed that Dorsey was phoning it in as he was on vacation while his deputies were pushing to deplatform Trump with Roth in particularly spearheading efforts to censor other users pertaining to tweets about the 2020 election.

On Monday, Weiss delved into the pressure Twitter management was facing from its employees who called for Trump’s permanent suspension, though the Free Press editor also revealed several Twitter staffers who enforce policies did not believe Trump’s tweets from Jan. 6 actually violated its rules.

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However, it was Vijaya Gadde, then-Twitter’s head legal chief, who asked if Trump’s tweets could be “coded incitement to further violence.” Moments later, the so-called “scaled enforcement team” suggested that based on how Twitter interprets Trump’s tweets, it could violate the violence incitement policies.

Musk had been vocal about being transparent when it comes to Twitter’s past and present actions when it comes to curating content on the platform, including censored content.

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