The latest drop of Twitter Files shows that a United States senator's campaign director pressured the company to target his political opponents.
Independent journalist Matt Taibbi posted a thread of tweets illustrating how government officials intentionally targeted constituents and political rivals as "Russian-controlled." Taibbi’s reporting revealed that Sen. Angus King's (I-ME) campaign director and Mark Lenzi, a State Department official, each separately pressured Twitter to censor certain accounts on the platform.
A 2018 email from a Twitter official indicated that King's campaign director flagged approximately 354 "suspicious" accounts to Twitter. Some of the accounts appear to have included supporters of his opponent at the time, Maine Republican State Sen. Eric Brakey.
King's campaign director’s list targeted accounts as "suspicious" for various reasons, reported Taibbi. The stated reasons included “Rand Paul visit excitement,” “Bot (averages 20 tweets a day),” “mentions immigration,” or simply being followed on the platform by Brakey.
Upon hearing the news, Brakey slammed King’s totalitarian tactics.
6. If a president freaking out about one tweeter is news, surely a U.S. Senator finking on three hundred-plus of his constituents also must be? pic.twitter.com/dUtLV8TlmV— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) February 19, 2023
“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. Brakey added that the censorship requests were contrary to everything the United States stands for.
"What King’s staff appears to have done on his behalf is repugnant to American values...Senator King needs to come clean with the people of Maine about his attempts to censor voters and limit freedoms of speech,” he said.
Taibbi also posted an email reportedly from State Department official Mark Lenzi asking Twitter to remove fourteen “‘Russian controlled accounts.’” Lenzi labeled himself a “‘lifelong Republican.’”
Lenzi also bragged to Twitter leadership about his ability to locate accounts he felt should be censored and promised to flag more.
"In my work I have been able to identify a lot of Russian controlled Twitter accounts that have made it through some of your purges,’" Lenzi claimed. “‘Many of the followers of these accounts are Russian controlled disinformation accounts as well and I can provide many more of these Russian controlled Twitter accounts to you in the coming weeks.’”
The censorship requests by King’s campaign team are similar to requests made by the office of former House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
MRC Free Speech America reported in January that Schiff’s office asked Twitter to ban journalist Paul Sperry.
Twitter apparently denied the request. However, Sperry was later suspended by Twitter anyway.
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