Over the weekend independent journalist Michael Shellenberger released Part 4 of the “Twitter files”. This latest batch highlights the chaos within the company on the day after the January 6 Capitol Hill riot.

“The Removal of Donald Trump: January 7,” author Shellenberger posted Saturday night to begin a larger thread. “As the pressure builds, Twitter executives build the case for a permanent ban.”

On Jan 7, senior Twitter execs:

– create justifications to ban Trump

– seek a change of policy for Trump alone, distinct from other political leaders

– express no concern for the free speech or democracy implications of a ban

This #TwitterFiles is reported with @lwoodhouse— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 10, 2022

Shellenberger noted that on January 7th, Twitter executives met to “create justifications to ban Trump”, “seek a change of policy for Trump alone distinct from other political leaders” and that they were not concerned at all about freedom of speech or democracy or the implications of such ban.

Shellenberger referenced public calls from former First Lady Michelle Obama and other prominent figures calling for Trump’s ban on January 7.

Yoel Roth, former Head of Trust & Safety at Twitter, hasn’t been shy about his leftwing views and has even gone as far as claiming that Trump was a Nazi.

“In 2017, Roth tweeted that there were ‘ACTUAL NAZIS IN THE WHITE HOUSE,’” Shellenberger wrote. “In April 2022, Roth told a colleague that his goal ‘is to drive change in the world,’ which is why he decided not to become an academic.”

On January 7, @Jack emails employees saying Twitter needs to remain consistent in its policies, including the right of users to return to Twitter after a temporary suspension

After, Roth reassures an employee that “people who care about this… aren’t happy with where we are” pic.twitter.com/IfDpEVnOtR— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 10, 2022

Roth was the person that pushed Jack Dorsey to adopt the five violations (“strikes”) policy where twitter would permanently ban anyone, including then President Trump for their fifth strike. Leading up to the January 6th riots at the Capitol Trump had four strikes.

The colleague wants to know if the decision means Trump can finally be banned. The person asks, “does the incitement to violence aspect change that calculus?”

Roth says it doesn’t. “Trump continues to just have his one strike” (remaining). pic.twitter.com/Qyi1sJNa0w— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 11, 2022

“On January 8, Twitter announces a permanent ban on Trump due to the ‘risk of further incitement of violence,’” Shellenberger wrote.

“On J8, Twitter says its ban is based on ‘specifically how [Trump’s tweets] are being received & interpreted,’” Shellenberger continues. “But in 2019, Twitter said it did ‘not attempt to determine all potential interpretations of the content or its intent.’”

On J8, Twitter says its ban is based on “specifically how [Trump’s tweets] are being received & interpreted.”

But in 2019, Twitter said it did “not attempt to determine all potential interpretations of the content or its intent.” https://t.co/2jW1s5pH4W pic.twitter.com/8gZwIDtyUQ— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 11, 2022

Twitter employees raised concerns about the decision to suppress those who tweeted things like “#Stopthesteal” but leadership didn’t care.

Shellenberger provided examples of Twitter employees using the term “one off” in Slack discussions which he says “reveals significant employee discretion over when and whether to apply warning labels on tweets and ‘strikes’ on users.”

“Twitter employees recognize the difference between their own politics & Twitter’s Terms of Service (TOS), but they also engage in complex interpretations of content in order to stamp out prohibited tweets, as a series of exchanges over the “#stopthesteal’ hashtag reveal,” Shellenberger’s thread added.

Roth immediately DMs a colleague to ask that they add “stopthesteal” & [QAnon conspiracy term] “kraken” to a blacklist of terms to be deamplified.

Roth’s colleague objects that blacklisting “stopthesteal” risks “deamplifying counterspeech” that validates the election. pic.twitter.com/G02gGeicUW— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 11, 2022

Shellenberger also noted how Twitter employees struggled deciding whether to punish users who posted screenshots of Trump’s deleted January 6th tweets with one saying that “we should bounce these tweets with a strike given the screenshot violates the policy” and another saying “they are criticizing Trump, so I am bit hesitant with applying strike to this user.”

Employees struggle with whether to punish users who share screenshots of Trump’s deleted J6 tweets

“we should bounce these tweets with a strike given the screen shot violates the policy”

“they are criticising Trump, so I am bit hesitant with applying strike to this user” pic.twitter.com/dhHF2nXsHz— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 11, 2022

What if a user dislikes Trump *and* objects to Twitter’s censorship?” The thread continued. “The tweet still gets deleted. But since the *intention* is not to deny the election result, no punishing strike is applied. ‘if there are instances where the intent is unclear please feel free to raise.’”

Messages between Roth and Dorsey reveal their decision to change the rules because it was Trump.

“Around noon, a confused senior executive in advertising sales sends a DM to Roth,” Shellenberger continues. 

“Sales exec: ‘jack says: ‘we will permanently suspend [Trump] if our policies are violated after a 12 hour account lock’… what policies is jack talking about?’ Roth: ‘*ANY*’ policy violation.”

What happens next, according to Shellenberger, is “essential” to understanding the justification” used to ban Trump.

“Sales exec: ‘are we dropping the public interest [policy] now…’ Roth, six hours later: ‘In this specific case, we’re changing our public interest approach for his account…’”

Twitter ignored their own policy of not suspending the accounts of elected officials.

“The ad exec is referring to Twitter’s policy of ‘Public-interest exceptions,’ which allows the content of elected officials, even if it violates Twitter rules, ‘if it directly contributes to understanding or discussion of a matter of public concern,” Shellenberger wrote.

What happens next is essential to understanding how Twitter justified banning Trump.

Sales exec: “are we dropping the public interest [policy] now…”

Roth, six hours later: “In this specific case, we’re changing our public interest approach for his account…” pic.twitter.com/XRUFil2npI— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 11, 2022

Twitter painted the picture that they were banning Trump over him inciting an “insurrection” on January 6th but Shellenberger reported that they also looked at a ban on Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), even though it “doesn’t quite fit anywhere (duh).” Twitter was determined to cite Gaetz for “inciting violence” even though there wasn’t any evidence to justify a ban.

Roth pushes for a permanent suspension of Rep. Matt Gaetz even though it “doesn’t quite fit anywhere (duh)”

It’s a kind of test case for the rationale for banning Trump.

“I’m trying to talk [Twitter’s] safety [team] into… removal as a conspiracy that incites violence.” pic.twitter.com/ZQP6u1zevy— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 11, 2022

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