Elon Musk is causing chaos in a new way by saying that Twitter will talk about Hunter Biden’s personal computer files in the fall of 2020. This is a sensitive topic that should not be made public.
On Friday night, Twitter’s new owner used his personal account to promote a leak of documents. This is just the latest sign that the tech billionaire is moving the platform in a direction that conservatives and libertarians will like. Musk told his followers to vote Republican in the midterm elections. After taking an unofficial online poll, he brought back Donald Trump’s Twitter account last month.
The internal company conversations, which happened before Musk bought the company, show how Twitter responded to the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden’s files in the last few weeks of the last presidential campaign: with disagreement and confusion.
The communications were given to Substack writer Matt Taibbi, who has been a longtime critic of online censorship and mainstream media outlets. POLITICO has not independently checked them. Friday night, Taibbi shared parts of the leak in a long Twitter thread.
Musk gave a hint about the event hours before Taibbi started tweeting about it. He said, “This will be awesome,” and it seemed like he was helping to plan it himself.
As people waited for the promised information, Musk tweeted, “We’re double-checking some facts, so we’ll probably start live tweeting in about 40 minutes.” His most recent controversial move happened before the dust from his last one had settled. In that case, Musk blocked rapper Ye’s account after Ye tweeted, “I like Hitler.”
In the current state of the culture wars, the right has taken up the cause of free speech, while the center and left have used concerns about misinformation and hate speech to argue for more limits on online expression. Since taking over Twitter in October, Musk has made moderates on the right like him and made moderates on the left angry with his “let it go” attitude.
Last week, the mogul tweeted, “This is necessary to restore public trust” as a hint that he would share information about Twitter’s role in keeping the New York Post’s stories from getting out.
Since 2014, there has been a lot of talk about how Twitter handled the leak of Hunter Biden’s computer files, which revealed his chaotic personal life and business dealings abroad. The leak itself has also been a source of controversy.
Twitter at first blocked links to the New York Post’s stories and even stopped people from sending them to each other in private messages. It did this because of its policy on hacked and stolen content but changed its mind a few days later.
When the Post wouldn’t delete a tweet about the story, Twitter suspended the outlet’s account for more than two weeks. On October 30, 2020, long after it had lifted other restrictions on the story, Twitter lifted the suspension.
Afterward, Twitter’s then-CEO, Jack Dorsey, said that he was sorry that the story was taken down.
During a debate after the Post first published the story, then-candidate Joe Biden called it a “Russian plant.” He did this by referring to a letter from former intelligence officials who said the story “has all the classic signs of a Russian information operation.”
John Ratcliffe, who was Trump’s director of national intelligence at the time, said there was no evidence that the stories were part of a Russian effort to spread false information.
Hunter Biden told in an interview after the campaign that he didn’t know if the equipment was his, but it “certainly” could have been.
In the two years since the New York Post stories, journalists have used both traditional reporting methods and technical analyses to verify a lot of the cache. However, there is still a chance that some of the documents were faked or changed.
A book written by a POLITICO reporter in September 2021 said that the files were “at least mostly real.”
In March, the New York Times said that people who knew the emails about Hunter Biden’s business dealings abroad had confirmed that they were real. Later that same month, the Washington Post said that two computer security experts it had hired to look at the files had found that 22,000 of the emails in the cache were real.
Reports say that a forensic analysis of the files that it had done last month found no signs that they had been changed.
Hunter Biden is still the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. The investigation has been focused on his taxes. He has said he did nothing wrong.
When they take over the House next month, Republicans plan to look into Hunter Biden’s business dealings. In October, they tweeted a tribute to Musk.