Democratic lawmakers ask Musk about possible Chinese manipulation of Twitter

Democratic lawmakers ask Musk about possible Chinese manipulation of Twitter

Elon Musk’s Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone atop printed Twitter logos in this illustration taken April 28, 2022.

Dice Ruvic | Reuters

Three House Democrats are calling on Twitter’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk to provide information about a possible “platform manipulation campaign” on the social media platform that “restricted access to information about the protests in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)” in recent weeks.

In a letter to Musk on Tuesday, Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., cite a Washington Post report that found many Chinese-language accounts have started spamming Twitter with links to escort services and other offers following protests against China’s restrictive lockdown measures.

“To ensure that the United States is prepared to counter, thwart, and deter foreign influence threats online, it is critical that we understand the extent of the PRC’s potential manipulation of Twitter and identify how recent changes to Twitter affect the threat of foreign CCP influence on social media operations,” the lawmakers wrote.

They asked if Twitter had any indications that the “obstructing access to Tweets” about the protests was led by Beijing and if it had evidence that state actors deliberately sought to suppress access to information. through bots or other manipulation tactics.

Lawmakers also questioned whether the platform has the ability to identify large-scale disinformation and information suppression campaigns and what measures Twitter should block efforts to suppress access to information on its service. They asked Musk to respond by the end of the year.

The letter comes after Musk – who is also CEO of SpaceX, an American defense contractor, and You’re here, a multinational electric vehicle company with a vital factory in Shanghai — began posting internal Twitter communications last week to politically conservative writers including Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss. Taibbi has an exclusive podcast deal with Musk’s friend and Twitter investor David Sacks through his podcasting platform, Call. Taibbi and Weiss both write newsletters on Substack, which is partly funded by Andreessen Horowitz, co-investor in Twitter with Musk.

Musk released what he said was the first set of “Twitter Files” to support claims that the company’s previous management handled content moderation in a way that was biased against conservatives. Musk even went so far as to say that Twitter, which he now owns and runs, interfered with the US election. During a discussion on Twitter Spaces, Musk suggested that more files be released on how Twitter handled the 2020 presidential election, January 6, 2021, the riot at the US Capitol, and the Covid-19 pandemic. .

Research before Musk acquired it found that Twitter’s content moderation approach was not politically biased, but the company suspended tweets or accounts sharing widely accepted misinformation.

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Twitter’s former deputy general counsel James Baker “was also kicked out” of the company this week, musk said, due to “concerns about Baker’s possible role in suppressing information important to public dialogue”. Musk did not elaborate on the matter.

Taibbi wrote that Baker was involved in reviewing the “Twitter Files” before they were released to him and Weiss.

Baker previously worked as a federal prosecutor and as general counsel for the FBI from 2014 to 2018. Former President Donald Trump has alleged that the FBI “spied on” him.

During Baker’s tenure, the FBI investigated Trump to determine whether he may have obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 and if or how Russia interfered in the election process. American leading to the presidency of Trump.

However, Musk is not totally opposed to working with former members of the FBI or the Democratic Party. According to their profiles on LinkedIn, Musk employs a 23-year-old FBI veteran named Julia Jolie at Tesla, as well as Albert Gore, the son of former Vice President Al Gore, and Rohan Patel, who was previously special assistant to the Tesla. former President Barack Obama.

Alex Spiro, attorney for Twitter and Musk, was not immediately available for comment.

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