lon Musk, the world’s wealthiest person until recently, has become one of the most controversial figures in the U.S. media especially after he acquired Twitter in October 2022. With the $44 billion buyout of the mega social media company, Musk has opened a new political front in an already divided country. His very first decisions, including reinstating former U.S. President Trump’s Twitter account, have made conservatives very happy while liberals have unleashed their anger against him.
As the tension is getting higher, Musk has begun to uncover some buried files related to Hunter Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden’s son, and his alleged business relations with China. Musk’s decision to float the relations between the ex-Twitter management and the Biden administration by releasing Hunter Biden’s story has shaken the social media platform. Under the Twitter Files tag, Twitter released ten different files to the public so far, and the fight between liberals and conservatives has just got more intense.
Musk’s Twitter takeover
Elon Musk completed his $44 billion buyout of Twitter on October 28, and immediately started to reshape the company. He fired some high-level managers and executives on the very first day, and told the human resources department to prepare for a widespread layoff. After paying $44 billion, Musk aimed to take the company to a profitable financial level by reshaping it.
As the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, many people expected Musk to do a great job at Twitter too, even if his $44 billion buyout was thought to be risky. In trying to make Twitter thoroughly profitable, Musk has a challenging financial mission ahead of him – “Mission Impossible” for some market analysts.
From the beginning, Musk aimed to change Twitter’s policies from a far-left approach to a more balanced one. Musk’s “recalibration” approach is a kind of balance between the liberal and conservative wings, Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ communities and anti-gay groups, abortion rights activists and pro-life advocates, etc. Mainstream American media has labeled him a pro-conservative antihero, yet Musk has described himself as a champion of free speech even if it needs a positive discrimination in favor of some groups.
Musk’s Twitter reinstated Trump’s banned account and did the same for hundreds of leading conservative figures whose accounts were suspended after the January 6 United States Capitol attack. It’s still a matter of debate whether Musk is an antihero for liberal values or a champion for free speech.
Twitter Files bombshell
Elon Musk made a promise before he acquired the company: he would release buried internal Twitter files to the public in line with his transparency policy. Musk fulfilled his promise and released ten Twitter files, including internal messages, emails, and screenshots of journalists such as Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, Lee Fang, and Michael Shellenberger.
The first part, “Twitter Files-1” was released on December 2, and the last part, “Twitter Files-8.” was released on December 20, 2022. Starting with “Twitter Files-1,” which was about how Twitter handled Hunter Biden’s laptop controversy in October 2020, every file has shaken social media platforms and the media.
The first file was about how Twitter internally suppressed the Hunter Biden story through the platform in coordination with the FBI. As the U.S. presidential elections were approaching, the Hunter Biden story had the capacity to hurt Joe Biden’s election campaign. At the time, Twitter, alongside the whole mainstream media, chose to suppress the allegations by advocating that the material source was a hacked laptop so it shouldn’t be used.
Meanwhile, half the country believed that they had the right to be informed about the Hunter Biden allegations. Musk stated that he believes the same thing and released the details of how Twitter suppressed the story. After the first reveal, American media immediately blamed Musk with stoking the fire in an already divided America. Musk responded to liberal media by saying that it would be hypocritical on his part not to reveal the files exposing the corruption of the then Twitter management.
The second and the third files were about how Trump and certain conservative figures were shadow banned from Twitter starting in 2018. The following file concerned Twitter’s decisions in the days surrounding the January 6 Capitol attack, including Trump’s indefinite ban from the platform. The files have clearly shown that the company managers were leaning towards far-left political tendencies. The uncovering of such internal deliberations in Twitter, offered conservatives the proof that the company was shadow banning Trump and his supporters, and acting against conservatives.
The next two files were about the influence of the FBI over the company especially regarding sensitive political and/or national security issues. According to the files, the FBI helped shape the company narratives related to both the Hunter Biden story and the U.S. military campaign in Syria. In October 2020, the FBI reportedly guided Twitter on how to suppress the Hunter Biden story.
More interestingly, but not surprisingly, the FBI files have also revealed that Twitter has easily (even voluntarily) agreed with the FBI to allow some U.S.-backed fake accounts to promote American foreign policy and military interests. The FBI-Twitter “brotherhood” promoted widespread publications in the media and drew a backlash from different groups. According to the released files, the FBI set up a team of 80 agents to monitor suspicious accounts while Twitter made sure to help them as much as possible. If Musk hadn’t decided to make these files public, we wouldn’t know about the close FBI-Twitter cooperation.
We now know what we’d been guessing all along
Elon Musk purchased Twitter with a $44 billion price tag, and started to change it towards a different direction: a more multicultural platform for everyone, he claimed. Some people like this new direction and others don’t. Ultimately, only time will tell if Musk can really change Twitter. In the meantime, we’ve learned something we’d been guessing to date: Twitter banned Trump because they didn’t like him or the conservatives, and Twitter has always been in cooperation with the U.S. institutions including the FBI.
The list could go on. With the Twitter Files’ revelations, the American people now know some truths about how social media companies function on certain political and national security issues; how they cherry-pick sensitive national matters; and their far-left, liberal tendencies. The Twitter Files have shed light on something that many people have been asking for a long time: is it okay for social media companies that claim to allow free speech to be totally biased against certain political groups, and to have close relations with a state’s intelligence agency?