Elon Musk recently pledged to release “The Twitter Files” and expose what the social media company did to suppress free speech over the past few years, saying “The Twitter Files on free speech suppression soon to be published on Twitter itself. The public deserves to know what really happened …“.
Well, the first of those reports has now been published. It’s the one on Twitter’s Covid-19 misinformation policy. That policy is, thanks to Musk, no longer in effect. Twitter announced that “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”
And, as the policy is no longer in effect, people started digging and uncovered that the first transparency report has actually come out, having been published on July 28, 2022 and being quite informative as to Twitter’s Covid censorship efforts.
According to the data in the report, since January of 2020, over 11 million Twitter accounts were challenged by the company for violating its Covid policy. Of those challenged accounts, a total of 11,230 were suspended. Further, nearly 100,000 (97,674) individual pieces of content were removed from Twitter thanks to the policy.
The month with the most challenges was December of 2020, when over 3 million accounts were challenged. The challenges then dramatically fell off, with 338k in January of 2021, and then under 1000 after then.
By contrast, the month with the most suspensions was January of 2022, when over 2,200 accounts were suspended under the rule. Over a thousand accounts were suspended as recently as August of this year under the Covid policy.
The most content removals came in January of 2021, when over 7,000 pieces of content were removed. Removals stayed high throughout that year, only tailing off in early 2022.
Combined, the shifting numbers of suspensions, removals, and challenges show Twitter’s shifting attempts at censorship as it moved between tactics to enforce an anti-free speech policy and silence dissent on the topic. Further, the sheer extent of them, with challenges sometimes totaling in the millions in a single month, shows the shockingly large extent of Twitter’s censorship efforts and the scale of its attempts to quash those who would speak out against certain policies or pronouncements.
What future reports could show, particularly ones released since Elon’s takeover of the company, could be even more shocking. A report framed in much the same way as the Covid policy one, stating what the policy is and then how many accounts were suppressed, banned, challenged, or otherwise hit for going against the policy could be highly informative and show how deep Twitter’s censorship efforts went.
A report on, for example, the quashing of any anti-trans talk or use of the word “groomer” could show how involved Twitter got in pushing one particular narrative, helping GOP members of Congress show that the company is really a publisher and needs to be treated as such if it again steps out of line on the free speech front. Such data could also potentially be used to pressure Facebook into releasing similar data on its censorship campaigns and efforts.