Democratic lawmakers are asking Musk for information on China’s possible Twitter push

Elon Musk’s Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed over printed Twitter logos in this April 28, 2022 file photo.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

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

In a letter to Musk on Tuesday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Ill., D-Calif. and Jackie Speier cited a report from the Washington Post that found multiple Chinese-language accounts had started. Spamming Twitter with links to escort services and other offers following protests against China’s restrictive Covid control measures.

“To ensure the United States is prepared to counter, prevent, and deter foreign influence threats online, it is important to understand the extent of the PRC’s potential manipulation of Twitter and determine how recent changes on Twitter affect CCP foreign threat operations in social media. affects,” the deputies wrote.

They asked whether there was any indication that Twitter’s “blocking of access to tweets” related to the protests was led by Beijing, and whether there was evidence that any state actors were deliberately trying to stifle access to information through bots or other manipulative tactics.

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

The letter comes after Musk, who is CEO of SpaceX, a US defense contractor Tesla, a multinational electric car company with a major factory in Shanghai — this past week began releasing internal communications to politically conservative writers, including Twitter’s Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss. Taibbi has an exclusive podcast deal with Musk’s friend and Twitter investor David Sacks podcasting platform, Callin. Taibbi and Weiss both write a newsletter at Substack, which is funded in part by Musk and Twitter co-investor Andreessen Horowitz.

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

Investigations conducted before Musk acquired it found that Twitter’s approach to content moderation was not politically biased, but that the company suspended accounts that shared tweets or broadly consensual misinformation.

Twitter’s former deputy general counsel James Baker also “retired” this week. Musk said, due to “concerns about Baker’s possible role in suppressing information important to public dialogue.” Musk did not provide detailed information about this.

Taibbi wrote that Baker participated in a review of the “Twitter Files” before they were released to him and Weiss.

Baker previously served as a federal prosecutor and the FBI’s chief counsel from 2014 to 2018. Former President Donald Trump claimed that the FBI “spyed” on him.

During Baker’s tenure, the FBI investigated whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, and whether or how Russia interfered in the US election process that led to Trump becoming president.

However, Musk isn’t entirely against working with former FBI or Democratic Party affiliates. According to their LinkedIn profiles, Musk works at Tesla with Julia Jolie, a 23-year veteran of the FBI, as well as Albert Gore, son of former Vice President Al Gore, and Rohan Patel, who was previously his special assistant. President Barack Obama.

Twitter and Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, were not immediately available for comment.

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