The continuing saga of Twitter’s close cooperation with the U.S. government and senior government officials wound through Maine Saturday night when independent journalist Matt Taibbi posted what appear to be records of October 2018 requests by the office of U.S. Senator Angus King to monitor accounts following his rival at the time, Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin).
Taibbi is one of a handful of journalists Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, authorized to review archives of the social media giant’s often troublingly close coordination with the government.
“If Dick Nixon sniffed glue, this is what his enemies list would look like,” Taibbi wrote of the spreadsheet of names King’s office allegedly “reported” to Twitter as suspicious. Examples of reasons to be considered suspicious include: “Rand Paul visit excitement,” “Bot (averages 20 tweets a day),” “Mentions immigration,” or follows Eric Brakey (who was running against King at the time).
The records in Taibbi’s report don’t specify what action King’s staffers were asking Twitter to take, but previous Twitter Files disclosures have showed that Twitter would ban accounts flagged by government actors or “shadowban” them so that their messages were less visible to other users.
Brakey saw the report as less funny and more troubling:
“Matt Taibbi’s report shows that Angus King’s staffers tried to silence his political opponent and hundreds of constituents,” Brakey told The Maine Wire, adding “what King’s staff appears to have done on his behalf is repugnant to American values.”
King’s office declined comment to Taibbi, he said in a post at 7:45 pm on Saturday. The Maine Wire reached out to King’s office shortly thereafter but did not receive an immediate response.
“Senator King needs to come clean with the people of Maine about his attempts to censor voters and limit freedoms of speech,” said Brakey.
Assuming Taibbi’s reporting is correct – and to date he has not been refuted on a factual basis on the Twitter beat yet – it is a troubling sign of how powerful politicians and their staff leaned on Twitter to suppress their opponents.
King would not be alone in making such requests of the private company. Two years later, “Biden team” members requested that Twitter suppress stories about Hunter Biden’s forgotten laptop and the contents it held.
It is unknown at this time whether other high-ranking Maine politicians have also leaned on giant social media companies to silence or censor their opponents.
The Maine Wire is continuing to follow this story.