Free Speech

The Twitter Censorship Files: ‘China Would Be Proud’

This piece first ran at Quadrant Online in December 2022. It is reprised because, sadly, the Coalition has sided with Labor in moving to restrict what Australians can say and see. – rf

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IT’S THE story of the year, it’s unfolding entirely in public view, anyone could milk it—and only Fox is covering it. Twitter CEO Elon Musk passed a horde of internal e-mails to freelance journalist Matt Taibbi, documenting the platform’s extraordinary efforts to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story, and Taibbi returned the favor by publishing the best bits on Twitter. Tucker Carlson jumped on it. The rest of the mainstream media ignored it.

But the deepest insight came from Carlson’s Fox colleague Laura Ingram. Commenting on Twitter’s blocking of the Biden laptop story even in private direct messages between individual users, she ad-libbed “China would be proud”.

And indeed they would. Like the Chinese government censoring WeChat messages, the political activists at Twitter weren’t content to prevent the public dissemination of information they found threatening. They used tools that had been developed for the suppression of child pornography to completely purge the Biden laptop story from their platform. And as far as we know, the rest of Big Tech followed suit.

No doubt the Washington Post will validate the Twitter election interference story in time for the 2026 midterms. As they say on their masthead, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”—eventually. In the meantime, we have to rely on a patriotic immigrant billionaire to keep the torch of democracy lit.

Of course, “we all knew” that Big Tech was suppressing any news that might be seen as favorable to Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2020 election … if by “we all” we mean right-wing conspiracy theorist nutjob QAnon insurrectionists. Everyone else may have vaguely felt that something was up, but all for a good cause. Podcasters who tried to pursue Big Tech found themselves deplatformed. The few academics who pointed out the immorality of lying for the (self-perceived) common good were thoroughly marginalised (believe me).

Thanks to Musk, and one might surmise “thanks to the threats directed at Musk”, we’re getting a peek into the establishment’s propaganda machine. Would Musk have released the smoking gun documents if the global Western political establishment hadn’t threatened to close down his $44 billion investment? We may never know.

We do know that Apple quietly withdrew its threat to pull Twitter from its App Store a few hours before the Twitter Files were published. The European Union’s Commissioner for Digital Policy, Thierry Bretondialed, announced a concordat with Musk, and it’s hard to believe that US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will follow through with a foreign influence investigation of Elon Musk when he’s in possession of thousands of e-mails linking Twitter malfeasance to the Democratic National Committee.

What we don’t know is how much material Musk has shared with Taibbi, and who else might be caught in the web. Presumably, there will be a book. Will it come in time for the 2024 elections? Bet on it. Will it be suppressed? Not this time.

The leaders of the Western political establishment, from its 99-year-old godfather Henry Kissinger through the Bidens, Clintons, Obamas, and Cheneys right down to the Romneys, Trudeaus, and Arderns, are all scared to death of the potential of social media to shape an information narrative outside of the control of their own particular social class. To a person they admire China’s governance mechanisms, and they are jealous of the media management tools that the Chinese Communist Party has at its disposal. That’s why they’re so comfortable with TikTok. From their standpoint, the more Western social media come to resemble China’s, the better.

The great thing about capitalism is that it creates the space for a maverick billionaire who sees an underpriced asset saddled with a dying business model to buy it and make a fortune by liberating it. For a fraction of the price of a Facebook or YouTube, Musk has acquired a major social media platform, and he shows every sign of wanting to monetise his investment by making Twitter relevant again. If he succeeds, democracy will emerge all the stronger. If he fails, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

If there ever was a time to get on Twitter, it’s now. I returned to Twitter the day Elon announced his bid. If you want to give him a realistic chance at turning it around, join me there. Where we lead, the advertisers will follow. Someday, the mainstream media may catch up, too.

Salvatore Babones is The Philistine.

16 thoughts on “The Twitter Censorship Files: ‘China Would Be Proud’

  • Peter OBrien says:

    I’d like to help out, Salvatore, but I can’t. I am a lapsed Catholic of many years standing. I have often thought recently I should resume regular churchgoing to demonstrate my support for Christianity but haven’t been able to bring myself to give up my Sunday mornings. I have never used Twitter, and pretty much despise it, so I there is no way I could join now, even in a good cause.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Was a member of a small private group of six members on FB and cracked a joke about the dreaded not lasting long as did anything made in China and was banned for a month, and then any comments made were to be monitored. Told them to go to buggery as I told the priest after Sunday mass many years ago when he directed the congregation to vote Labor in a coming election.

  • doconnell says:

    Good idea. I was de-platformed pre-Musk and applied to get back on post-Musk and succeeded. The only trouble is I am a non-entity.

  • walter says:

    I am curious as to why Mr Babones’ interesting article has inspired an outpouring of antiPapist sentiment from Quadrant readers (and writers). Perhaps it helps fill a void left in their otherwise idle Sunday mornings. Although I did attend Mass today and am thus condemned as intellectually suspect, I concur with the proud freethinkers above that Twitter is a cesspool. If Satan was tasked with devising a medium to promote mean spirited bullying and small minded thought, it would certainly involve limiting expression of ideas to a 280 character limit and ranking content (thought) by the number of retweets.

    • Peter OBrien says:

      I am not an anti Papist.

    • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

      Not anti any mainstream religion Walter but how I voted was of no concern to the celebrant of the Mass fifty and more years ago just as it is to this day. Cobbler, stick to thine last springs to mind.

    • Stephen Due says:

      The sentiment seems to be not so much anti-papist as personal disaffection. Nevertheless true Roman Catholics today are properly anti-papist, as the Pope is clearly an apostate. See the US RC website Church Militant. I personally attend a (Protestant) church on Sundays in spite of much that occurs there being quite irksome, especially the juvenile music, poor preaching and uninspiring prayers – I regard church attendance as a Christian’s duty.

  • ianl says:

    I think it would be quite nice if Elon Musk also released e-mails involving the Aus MSM, especially those belonging to the lefty outlets (you know – SMH, The Aus, ABC, Guardian, Ch’s 7, 9, 10 …)

    And even specific Aus journos. Jolly good fun.

    • pgang says:

      Avi Yemeni has made that request and has had a reply in the affirmative from Musk. There were no specifics about the who or where, but we can assume that our MSM will be caught up in it.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    From my firsthand direct experience over many years the suppression and manipulation in our own main stream media are probably worse than anything Twitter has done.
    .
    We just don’t have the people here to expose what’s happening. The media bargaining code issue showed what a closed shop our mainstream media are.
    .
    Australians are blissfully unaware of how bad our near monopoly mainstream media is because there isn’t any major outlet or powerful individual like Elon Musk prepared and/or equipped to expose them.

    • BalancedObservation says:

      It’s no wonder recent surveys show journalism is among the least trusted professions in the country.
      .
      Obviously people believe there’s very good reason for the old expression that you can’t believe what you read in the papers.
      .
      When journalists write about their own profession it’s usually in glowing terms expressing how important their industry is for our democracy. You wouldn’t get a hint in their writings about of the lack of respect generally in the community for their profession expressed in surveys.

      • BalancedObservation says:

        Even though people in general have such low respect for our journalism I still don’t think they realise how bad things really are in our mainstream media.
        .
        There’s no one willing and/or in a position to expose the mainstream media here in Australia.
        .
        However it’s reassuring to a small extent that – even though journalists write in glowing terms about themselves – people still have a low level of trust in them. In other words people have a low level of trust in our mainstream media even though that media is in a powerful near monopoly position to influence opinions about themselves. That in itself tellingly shows how bad our mainstream media is.

  • Stephen Due says:

    The fundamental problem is the relentless human impulse to suppress opinions one disagrees with. Censorship has always been around (e.g. John Milton ‘Areopagitica’). Therefore the antidote must ultimately be the inculcation of an ethical principle – namely the duty to protect free speech. Since we live in an unprincipled age this is a big problem. For the same reason, lying by government officials, and others with vested interests in aspects of public health, has become a huge stumbling-block during the pandemic. We live in a morally sick society, which prefers to believe the lie rather than face a truth that may be financially, emotionally or intellectually challenging.

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    Frankly, I don’t care two hoots what happens to Twitter or to any church. A few hours of investigation when Twitter first appeared was enough to conclude “Not for me, ever.” Same with other similar social media. If people say incredulously “How can you survive without it?” I merely see signs of a lack of self-confidence pressing them to be part of a gossip group. Ditto religion.
    To the extent that you can examine the detailed characteristics of past leaders, it is hard to imagine one who would need social media had it been available in their times. Can you imagine Margaret Thatcher glued to a tweet screen for hours? Captain James Cook? Churchill? Ayn Rand? These people became noticed because they had the individual skills to create new concepts ahead of the masses, not by “tweeting” with the masses.
    Re USA election skulduggery, I was monitoring the 2020 elections as the first counts came in. There was a sudden change of pattern and strange procedures in several States in the midle of the first night. It was suggestive of foul play. I do not endorse the rigging of elections in any way, so if Elon Musk succeeds in lessening this form of corruption, that will be good. Geoff S

  • Stephen Due says:

    In spite of its reputation for triviality, Twitter was used for serious scientific communication during the pandemic. For example, the Nobel laureate Michael Levitt – Stanford Prof. of Biophysics, Cambridge PhD and DSc – has been interacting with other scientists analyzing Covid data via Twitter. The site facilitates the rapid formation of informal scientific communication networks. Censorship has undermined this application of the platform to some extent, though not entirely. Prof. Levitt’s site on Twitter is well worth a visit.

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