Le scandale Hunter Biden, qui touche à la vie privée du fils du Président Biden, soupçon de pédopornographie inclus, a longtemps été tabou et, en France, taxé de complotisme par tout ce que les services de contre-influence comptent de prétendus fact-checkers. Mais le rachat de Twitter par Elon Musk change la donne : le nouveau patron du réseau a livré quelques révélations croustillantes sur la façon étrange, et pour ainsi dire volontaire, dont l'équipe Biden a obtenu la censure des informations disponibles sur ce sujet.
Grosse excitation conspi autour des "Twitter Files" sur le traitement de l'affaire Hunter Biden par Twitter, qui, outre les fantasmes et les infox qu'ils suscitent, dévoilent des noms d'employés de Twitter qui vont se faire harceler.🙄 pic.twitter.com/dw6tdod7az— Tristan Mendès France (@tristanmf) December 3, 2022
Comme le dit très bien le triste Mendès-France, l’affaire Hunter Biden a été classée, en France, dans la case “conspi”. Il était interdit d’en parler (et Mendès-France fait partie de ceux qui rêvent de maintenir cette interdiction) sans être disqualifié du débat public. Pourtant, plusieurs magazines français ont cédé à la tentation de “faire de l’audience” en évoquant cette affaire qui passionne le public (sujet dont le Courrier s’est abstenu jusqu’ici, parce que nous n’avons jamais considéré qu’il fallait se détourner des sujets essentiels pour jouer l’applaudimètre), y compris des magazines avec pignon sur la rue officielle.
Les passionnés de cette affaire trouveront du réconfort dans la série de tweets publiée par Elon Musk, qui évoquent la façon dont Twitter s’est auto-censuré pour étouffer l’affaire. En voici la liste exhaustive à destination de ceux qui boudent l’oiseau bleu :
3. The “Twitter Files” tell an incredible story from inside one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms. It is a Frankensteinian tale of a human-built mechanism grown out the control of its designer.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
4. Twitter in its conception was a brilliant tool for enabling instant mass communication, making a true real-time global conversation possible for the first time.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
5. In an early conception, Twitter more than lived up to its mission statement, giving people “the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
6. As time progressed, however, the company was slowly forced to add those barriers. Some of the first tools for controlling speech were designed to combat the likes of spam and financial fraudsters.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
7. Slowly, over time, Twitter staff and executives began to find more and more uses for these tools. Outsiders began petitioning the company to manipulate speech as well: first a little, then more often, then constantly.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
10.Both parties had access to these tools. For instance, in 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored. However:— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
11. This system wasn't balanced. It was based on contacts. Because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, there were more channels, more ways to complain, open to the left (well, Democrats) than the right. https://t.co/sa1uVRNhuH pic.twitter.com/K1xmqQ0TrD— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
12. The resulting slant in content moderation decisions is visible in the documents you’re about to read. However, it’s also the assessment of multiple current and former high-level executives.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
18. Twitter took extraordinary steps to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it may be “unsafe.” They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool hitherto reserved for extreme cases, e.g. child pornography.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
20.This led public policy executive Caroline Strom to send out a polite WTF query. Several employees noted that there was tension between the comms/policy teams, who had little/less control over moderation, and the safety/trust teams: pic.twitter.com/0IFnVPCOgY— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
22. Although several sources recalled hearing about a “general” warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence – that I've seen – of any government involvement in the laptop story. In fact, that might have been the problem…— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
23. The decision was made at the highest levels of the company, but without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey, with former head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde playing a key role.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
24. “They just freelanced it,” is how one former employee characterized the decision. “Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it.”— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
https://t.co/j4EeXEAw6F can see the confusion in the following lengthy exchange, which ends up including Gadde and former Trust and safety chief Yoel Roth. Comms official Trenton Kennedy writes, “I'm struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe”: pic.twitter.com/w1wBMlG33U— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
29. A fundamental problem with tech companies and content moderation: many people in charge of speech know/care little about speech, and have to be told the basics by outsiders. To wit:— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
30. In one humorous exchange on day 1, Democratic congressman Ro Khanna reaches out to Gadde to gently suggest she hop on the phone to talk about the “backlash re speech.” Khanna was the only Democratic official I could find in the files who expressed concern. pic.twitter.com/TSSYOs5vfy— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
33.Within a day, head of Public Policy Lauren Culbertson receives a ghastly letter/report from Carl Szabo of the research firm NetChoice, which had already polled 12 members of congress – 9 Rs and 3 Democrats, from “the House Judiciary Committee to Rep. Judy Chu’s office.” pic.twitter.com/UpBoq97QkB— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
34.NetChoice lets Twitter know a “blood bath” awaits in upcoming Hill hearings, with members saying it's a "tipping point," complaining tech has “grown so big that they can’t even regulate themselves, so government may need to intervene.” pic.twitter.com/2EE1NlWQ5k— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
An amazing subplot of the Twitter/Hunter Biden laptop affair was how much was done without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey, and how long it took for the situation to get "unfucked" (as one ex-employee put it) even after Dorsey jumped in.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
There are multiple instances in the files of Dorsey intervening to question suspensions and other moderation actions, for accounts across the political spectrum— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
The problem with the "hacked materials" ruling, several sources said, was that this normally required an official/law enforcement finding of a hack. But such a finding never appears throughout what one executive describes as a "whirlwind" 24-hour, company-wide mess. pic.twitter.com/aONKCROEOd— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
It's been a whirlwind 96 hours for me, too. There is much more to come, including answers to questions about issues like shadow-banning, boosting, follower counts, the fate of various individual accounts, and more. These issues are not limited to the political right.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
Que faut-il retenir de cette séquence ?
Nous reviendrons cette semaine sur la portée de ce qu’Elon Musk et son équipe ont révélé. Mais deux choses sautent aux yeux :
- la censure sur l’affaire Hunter Biden est venue “de l’intérieur” et a reposé sur l’auto-censure propre aux cadres de l’entreprise
- Twitter, comme les autres grands réseaux sociaux, est vérolée par une multitude de pratiques relevant de la censure, comme le “shadow-banning” ou le “boosting” qui faussent la véritable expression.