Two journalists behind a series reports known as the “Twitter Files” appeared before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives on Thursday, where they accused US government agencies of “disinformation” and “digital McCarthyism.”
Michael Shellenberger said his testimony before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government will sound the “alarm over the shocking and disturbing emergence of state-sponsored censorship” in the US.
He said the Twitter Files “have revealed a large and growing network of government agencies, academic institutions and nongovernmental organizations that are actively censoring American citizens, often without their knowledge on a range of issues.”
For his part, Matt Taibbi said what they found in the files was a “sweeping effort” to “use machine learning and other tools to turn the Internet into an instrument of censorship and social control.”
“Unfortunately, our own government appears to be playing a lead role,” he said.
“We learned that Twitter, Facebook, Google and other companies developed a formal system for taking in moderation requests from every corner of government, from the FBI, the DHS, the HHS, DOD, the Global Engagement Center at state, even the CIA,” he said.
“Ordinary Americans are not just being reported to Twitter for deamplification or de-platforming,” he said, “but to firms like PayPal, digital advertisers like Xandr and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe.”
Taibbi also hit back at Democratic Representative Stacey Plaskett, who had referred to him and Shellenberger as “so-called journalists,” reminding her that he has been a reporter for 30 years.
He said the Twitter Files were the “most grave story that I’ve ever worked on.”
The hearing also saw heated moments between Democrat and Republican representatives as Republican Jim Jordan accused Plaskett of asking journalists about their sources.
“I did not ask for sources. I asked if they were talking to Elon Musk,” Plaskett said in response while both journalists refused to answer such questions.
When Democrat Representative Sylvia Garcia asked a similar question, Taibbi said: “I can’t give it to you, unfortunately, because this is a question of sourcing, and I’m a journalist. I don’t reveal my sources.”
On reports that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is demanding Twitter to “identify all journalists” who were given access to the social media platform’s records, Taibbi said it was “concerning.”
Before the committee hearing started, Taibbi shared a new installment of the Twitter Files on his Twitter account over a “censorship industrial complex.”
Revealing internal emails in a Twitter post, he said: “When #TwitterFiles reporters were given access to Twitter internal documents last year, we first focused on the company, which at times acted like a power above government.”
“But Twitter was more like a partner to government,” he continued, adding it held a regular “industry meeting” with the FBI and DHS as well as receiving thousands of content reports from “every corner of government.”
“Emails from the FBI, DHS and other agencies often came with spreadsheets of hundreds or thousands of account names for review,” he said, sharing screenshots of the emails.
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