The MRC Flips Over Elon Musk, Part 11: The Wavering
The Media Research Center continued to promote "Twitter files" releases -- but it also fretted that Elon Musk wasn't doing enough to help right-wingers escape accountability for their hate and misinformation on the platform.
By Terry Krepel Posted 7/7/2023
In the course of little more than a year, the Media Research Center has completely flipped from accusing Elon Musk of playing too much footsie with China to defending him against criticism he was playing too much footsie with China. Now, the MRC has found a way to flip things even more, by defending Musk from criticism by China itself. Joseph Vazquez completed the flip in a March 1 post:
The Washington Post and CNBC tried to wokescold Twitter owner Elon Musk for advancing the Wuhan COVID-19 lab leak theory. The outlets attempted to achieve this by pushing ... Communist Chinese state propaganda.
The Post, owned by liberal billionaire Jeff Bezos, published a Feb. 28 story with a nutty headline that set the tone for the ludicrous argument: “Chinese state media calls out Elon Musk over coronavirus tweet.” The Post referred to Musk’s response to a tweet alleging that former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci funded gain-of-function virus research in Wuhan. “He did it via a pass-through organization (EcoHealth),” Musk tweeted in response.
The Post flexed the faux virtue-signaling of none other than the Chinese Communist Party-tied Global Times to rebuke Musk in its sub-headline: “Global Times newspaper criticizes Musk for advancing a ‘conspiracy theory’ about the virus’s origin.”
CNBC’s Feb. 28 headline promoting the communist propaganda needs no explanation: “China’s CCP warns Elon Musk against sharing Wuhan lab leak report.”
Funny, we don't recall the MRC ever gratuitously reminding us that Fox News is owned by right-wing billionaire Rupert Murdoch, and it certainly didn't remind us that the New York Post was a biased pro-Trump newspaper (owned by right-wing billionaire Murdoch) whenever it wrote about Hunter Biden's laptop.
Twitter suspended Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) personal account with “no explanation” Wednesday.
“My personal Twitter account @BasedMikeLee has been suspended. Twitter did not alert me ahead of time, nor have they yet offered an explanation for the suspension. My team and I are seeking answers,” the senator tweeted.
Twitter later restored the account again without explanation, according to Sen. Lee. “Thanks to all who assisted in operation #Free @basedMikeLee. Still no explanation from @Twitter as to what happened,” he later tweeted.
Pariseau later added an update from Musk: "Elon Musk explained Sen. Mike Lee's (R-UT) brief suspension in a tweet. 'His personal account (@BasedMikeLee) was incorrectly flagged as impersonation, which is not totally crazy, since it is based,' Musk Tweeted."
The next day, however, there was a new "Twitter files" drop, and Vazquez returned to do the stenography:
The latest batch of Twitter Files released by Twitter owner Elon Musk blew the lid off a coordinated effort to create “state-sponsored blacklists.”
Independent journalist Matt Taibbi, who unveiled the latest batch March 2, pointed to the George Soros-funded Atlantic Council and the government-backed Global Engagement Center as two of the entities responsible for creating blacklists to target Americans. Taibbi reported that “On June 8, 2021, an analyst at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab [DFRLab] wrote to Twitter: ‘Hi guys. Attached you will find... around 40k twitter accounts that our researchers suspect are engaging in inauthentic behavior... and Hindu nationalism more broadly.’” The Council reportedly suspected the 40,000 accounts of being “‘paid employees or possibly volunteers’ of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).” The problem, wrote Taibbi, was that the list “was full of ordinary Americans, many with no connection to India and no clue about Indian politics.”
Like his co-workers, Vazquez doesn't seem to understand that because Taibbi is doing the bidding of Musk, he's not an "independent journalist."
Meanwhile, the crisis of Musk-faith continued. Catherine Salgado complained in another March 2 post about an "ominous" ban against threats:
Twitter’s new “Violent speech policy” now has an ominous ban against “wishes of harm” on the platform.
Twitter frequently updates its platform policies, particularly since Elon Musk took over. But this new update could be detrimental to free speech. The “Violent speech policy” did not appear in Twitter’s policies until the last month, based on the Wayback Machine, which did not show the update until after a Feb. 1, 2023 archive (the archive doesn’t show it). The new policy does appear to be an updated version of Twitter’s previous Violent Threats Policy and Glorification of violence policy.
“You may not threaten, incite, glorify, or express desire for violence or harm,” Twitter’s new Violent speech policy reads. The new policy adds that Twitter has “a zero tolerance policy towards violent speech in order to ensure the safety of our users and prevent the normalization of violent actions.”
These objections apparently come from self-interest because an MRC division fell afoul of them: "One example of speech that could be mistakenly censored under this policy was when CNSNews.com Managing Editor Michael Chapman tweeted that, rather than watch Biden’s State of the Union Address, Americans would prefer to 'Eat pieces of broken glass.'" Salgado didn't disclose that CNS was the "news" division of the MRC.
Salgado then stated the MRC's real objections to it -- that conservatives might be held accountable for what they write and post:
“One of the biggest problems with blanket censorship policies censorship policies on the whole really are the subjective nature of their enforcement,” noted MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. “Take the popular satire site The Babylon Bee for example. Will The Babylon Bee be able to quote Monty Python to poke fun at government leaders like Senator Hirono? Facebook certainly didn’t allow it. Will Twitter?”
This issue with this Twitter policy is that it can very easily be misapplied. “Violent speech” is already more vague than “violent threats.” Individuals have been censored before for stating facts about biology that LGBTQ-identifying users somehow interpreted as “violence.” The Babylon Bee and Dr. Jordan Peterson have both fallen victim to such censorship on Twitter.
The new Twitter policy also appears similar to the language in the UK Online Safety Bill, which aimed in late 2021 to criminalize trolls for “likely psychological harm.” Whenever intention, wishes, or “likely” psychological harm come into play, the problem is that those measures are entirely subjective. Anything now can be labeled violence or “harm” by leftists, and anyone can be accused of inflicting some sort of emotional upset.
Elon Musk’s Twitter should be wary of being too vague or subjective in its policies, as missteps could seriously damage Twitter’s recent pro-free speech trend.
Remember, the whole point of the MRC's anti-"big tech" narrative is to keep conservatives from having to face the consequences for what they write.
The wavering ceased quickly because there was some agenda-feeding to be done. Autumn Johnson did her part in a March 8 post:
A congressional Interim Staff Report revealed that The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made apparently “partisan” demands of Twitter owner Elon Musk.
According to the Interim Staff Report released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, The FTC sent “over a dozen” letters to Twitter’s legal counsel and made “more than 350 specific demands” for information. The report slammed the FTC for having blatantly abused its power. “[T]he Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is orchestrating an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter,” the report critiqued. “These demands have no basis in the FTC’s statutory mission and appear to be the result of partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk.”
The FTC reportedly asked Twitter to hand over “[e]very single internal communication ‘relating to Elon Musk’ by any Twitter personnel” since he bought the company. Additionally, Twitter was asked to "’[i]dentify all journalists’" who were granted access to the internal files and explain why the company fired Jim Baker, the company’s ex-deputy general counsel and former FBI lawyer.
The Interim Staff Report also accused the FTC of making “partisan” demands with no “rational basis in user privacy. "The timing, scope, and frequency of the FTC’s demands to Twitter suggest a partisan motivation to its action,” the report noted.
The Interim Staff Report shows exactly the type of damning federal government overreach that the Twitter Files helped expose.
But Johnson is censoring the full story. As an actual news organization reported, the FTC's investigation is part of a 2011 consent decree Twitter signed with the government over protection of user data, and the change in Twitter's ownership did not absolve the company's responsibility in living up to it; an FTC spokesman explained that "Protecting consumers' privacy is exactly what the FTC is supposed to do."
Musk PR continues
Because the MRC is, at the end of the day, a PR agent for Elon Musk, it will always return to PR mode. It's not going to tell you about the repeated outages on the site since he fired most of its employees, or that he publicly mocked a disabled employee who wasn't sure if he still had a job (he was eventually shamed into apologizing to the guy and inviting him to keep working for Twitter). And it's certainly not going to tell you that anti-Semitic content on Twitter has increased since he bought the platform. But there was another "Twitter files" selective release to tout, and Catherine Salgado did the PR duties in a March 17 post:
Twitter actually censored true content to protect trust in supposed “authoritative sources” like ex-National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, according to installment nineteen of The Twitter Files.
Journalist Matt Taibbi exposes in what he called “The Great Covid-19 Lie machine,” which consisted of a combination of tyrannical government agencies, Stanford University’s Virality Project (VP) “and a slew of (often state-funded) NGOs” monitoring social media companies to censor COVID-19 content. These groups worked, often in a concerted effort, to suppress content that promoted natural immunity, critiqued the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine passports and that pointed out breakthrough cases in those that had received COVID-19 vaccinations. Some of the content that was censored not only turned out to be true in retrospect, but was admittedly determined to be true by the very groups involved in suppressing the content. As Taibbi put it, “The [Virality P]roject's central/animating concept was, ‘You can't handle the truth.’”
“The level of hubris from those involved in the ‘Great Covid-19 Lie Machine’ is stunning,” stated MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. “The idea that anyone, let alone a university and government officials, would knowingly suppress information regarding the health and safety of Americans is beyond the pale.”
Neither Taibbi nor Salgado mentioned that promoting "natural immunity" -- read: catching COVID and hope it didn't kill you -- was dangerous at a time when vaccines were not widespread and that COVID was still powerful and widespread enough that was killing thousands of people a day.
Also much more newsworthy at the MRC than system and personnel issues at Twitter is that Musk is now responding to press inquiries wit a poop emoji. Luis Cornelio gushed in a March 20 post under the immature headline "Elon Musk Takes Dump on Media":
Twitter owner Elon Musk has found a new way to troll his opponents in the liberal media with a healthy dose of toilet humor.
It’s not a question that Musk has been subject to relentless liberal media hit jobs after voicing support for fair and free speech on Twitter. Musk unveiled a funny joke to get back at leftist reporters and Twitter users can bet that it will be a smelly situation for the press: automatic poop emoji responses to media inquiries.
Musk announced the auto-responses to press inquiries in a Mar. 19 tweet. “email@example.com now auto responds with [a poop emoji],” tweeted Musk.
Salgado hyped another suck-up to Musk in a March 23 post:
Popular podcaster Joe Rogan bashed legacy media and praised independent journalists in a recent show. The Twitter Files is one of the biggest exclusive series in America now, broken by independent journalists.
Independent Substack journalist The Vigilant Fox shared a clip of Joe Rogan on his verified Twitter account March 21. In the clip, Joe Rogan praised independent journalists and slammed “mainstream media” as beholden to advertising revenue and the companies that provide the revenue.
Salgado still hasn't figured out that because writers like Taibbi were hand-picked by Musk and are reporting only what Musk allows them to, they're not "independent journalists."
Renata Kiss used a March 30 post to take a gentle shot at Donald Trump for not immediately returning to Twitter after Musk reinstated his account:
As the 2024 elections heat up, former President Donald Trump didn’t shy away from endorsing the prowess of his own social media platform over Elon Musk’s contentious Twitter.
On the Tuesday edition of Hannity on Fox News, Trump gushed about the success of his social media platform Truth Social, while he seemed to drag his feet on using Twitter again.
“I love Truth (Social). I think Truth is incredible,” he said. “It’s up, I think, 389 percent, it’s the hottest thing there is.” When asked if he would ever go back on Twitter, the former president replied, “Well, we’ll talk about that at some point. Now I use Truth (Social), although they want me back on Twitter desperately,” he said.
Kiss didn't mention that Truth Social is not, in fact, successful as a business, having trouble paying its bills and is being kept afloat only through the good graces of pro-Trump billionaires. She also didn't mention that the main reason Trump has not returned to Twitter is because he's contractually obligated to post his musings at Truth Social first and can't repost them elsewhere until six hours later.
Instead of telling her readers the full truth, she complained that "During the tumultuous 2020 elections, Twitter permanently suspended President Trump’s Twitter account in 2021 dubiously claiming that he helped incite the Jan. 6, Capitol Hill riot." In fact, there's nothing at all "dubious" about the claim -- the evidence Trump incited the riot is pretty clear.
Mad that anti-trans hate is still being blocked
The past year of sucking up to Elon Musk in order to encourage him to buy Twitter so that it and its fellow right-wingers would not feel the consequences of spreading hateful and extreme views -- which it misleadingly frames as "censorship" -- seems to have backfired a bit on the MRC, because it appears there are still some things Twitter finds offensive. A March 29 post by Cornelio was outraged that right-wingers (whom he misleadingly described as "pro-free speech") saw consequences (or, in Cornelio's parlance, were "censored") for spreading anti-transgender hate:
Despite Musk’s promises to protect free speech, Twitter silenced the Media Research Center and other free speech advocates who simply commented on the leftist ‘Trans Day of Vengeance’ event.
Twitter locked 11 pro-free speech journalists, politicians, and leaders out of their Twitter accounts for reporting on the infamous ‘Trans Day of Vengeance’ protest organized by Our Rights DC set to happen between March 31 and April 2. The censorship targeted accounts like The Media Research Center, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), The Federalist CEO Sean Davis and The Daily Wire podcast host Michael Knowles, among others. The platform’s active censorship appears to reveal that free speech is still being muzzled on Twitter.
Media Research Center President Brent Bozell blasted Twitter for its blatant censorship of a major news story. "Does Elon Musk know what his team is up to? Reporting on a 'Trans Day of Vengeance' right after the Nashville tragedy is important news,” he said. “Twitter should immediately remove these suspensions and explain what happened."
Twitter’s Vice President of Trust and Safety Ella Irwin explained the sweeping censorship related to tweets promoting the Trans Day of Vengeance. However, Irwin neglected to explain why those calling attention to the disturbing protest were also censored. “We had to automatically sweep our platform and remove >5000 tweets /retweets of this poster,” she wrote. “We do not support tweets that incite violence irrespective of who posts them. ‘Vengeance’ does not imply peaceful protest. Organizing or support for peaceful protests is ok.”
MRC Free Speech Vice President Dan Schneider ripped apart Twitter’s excuse:
“Twitter’s blatant hypocrisy is breathtaking. Just last week, liberals were on Twitter attacking Donald Trump for calling for protests in New York if he got indicted, but Twitter is now freezing accounts of conservatives who are simply reporting on planned protests by the left in Washington.”
Twitter locked the account of the Media Research Center’s video production division, MRCTV, after it called attention to the radical event.
Schneider overlooked the fact that these accounts posted a flyer promoting the event -- which was just a protest and not a call to violence -- not just "reporting" on it. The even ended up being canceled after the group putting it on was targeted with threats of violence, something neither Cornelio nor Schneider noted.
(Cornelio's post was updated to note that MRCTV's account was restored later that day.)
Cornelio went on to huff: "MRC Free Speech America will soon release a study that suggests that the rank-and-file employees at Twitter are in open revolt against the vision Musk articulated for the platform. Rather than building an environment where free speech is allowed to flourish at Twitter, employees continue to silence conservatives and censor opinions that run contrary to the woke agenda supported by so many in Silicon Valley." Indeed, Joseph Vazquez followed up the next day with this alleged study:
Despite public statements in support of free speech, censorship on Twitter has surprisingly increased since billionaire Elon Musk purchased the platform according to data from MRC Free Speech America's CensorTrack.org database. MRC Free Speech America found that Twitter censorship has been on the rise under Musk's leadership in comparison to the old regime. Musk once tweeted that he saw Twitter as the “de facto town square” and wrote that “failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.” It appears that a lot of work needs to be done to achieve Musk’s vision.
Here are MRC Free Speech America’s findings:
Twitter censorship has been on the rise under Elon Musk. MRC Free Speech America found 293 cases of documented censorship since Musk took control of the platform and began terminating the previous regime’s employees from Nov. 4, 2022 through Mar. 4, 2023. That’s 67 more than the 226 documented cases in CensorTrack.org from the old regime during the same time period a year prior (Nov. 4, 2021 - Mar. 4, 2022).
The severity of the censorship since Musk took over has been harsher. In 245 of the 293 (84%) documented cases of censorship on CensorTrack.org, Twitter locked users’ accounts, and in nearly all cases users were required to delete the content to regain access to their accounts. Under the old Twitter regime, by contrast, only 136 of the 226 (60%) documented cases of censorship consisted of locked accounts.
The previous Twitter regime targeted the biggest, most politically sensitive user accounts. However, Musk’s moves that led to the firing and resignation of key leaders in the elitist team in charge of the effort to target high follower accounts has not resulted in a reduction of censorship practices by the remaining rank-and-file staff involved in content moderation. The implication? The remaining staff at Twitter are revolting against Musk’s efforts to foster a free speech environment on the platform. Some high-profile users censored under the old regime during the analyzed period included Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), conservative radio host Dan Bongino, Just the News founder John Solomon, and the American Heart Association.
Sixty-two percent of documented cases of censorship during Musk’s leadership involved tweets critical of the left’s transgender narrative. At least 182 of the 293 (62%) documented cases of censorship recorded in the CensorTrack.org database for Twitter under Musk involved users being censored for speech critical of the left’s woke “transgender” narrative. Twitter’s censorship on this issue stands in stark contrast to the theorized pretext for Musk launching his $44 billion bid to acquire the platform.
The Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon shared in a tweet that “Musk reached out to us before he polled his followers about Twitter’s commitment to free speech. He wanted to confirm that we had, in fact, been suspended. He even mused on the call that he might need to buy Twitter. Now he’s the largest shareholder and has a seat on the board.” The Babylon Bee was banned under the previous regime for a humorous tweet declaring transgender Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine its “Man of the Year” in 2022.
Note how Vazquez framed right-wing anti-transgender hate as being "critical of the left’s transgender narrative." Also note that the only "censorship" the MRC cares about are of it and its fellow right-wingers -- never mind that the Twitter algorithm already had a right-wing bias before Musk or that liberal-leaning accounts have also been targeted by Musk -- and how Vazquez hyped that Musk "reached out" to right-wingers like the Babylon Bee to see that they got special treatment, something we're not aware Musk ever did to non-right-wing accounts.
Despite all of that, Vazquez avoided actually blaming Musk himself, insisting without evidence that the "censorship" was coming from "woke staff" at Twitter that Musk hasn't fired yet:
While the departure of Roth, Gadde, Agrawal and Dorsey appears to have helped Musk reduce the censorship of larger accounts, some believe that the censorship culture they fomented in the elitist SIP-PES [Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support team] has only grown stronger among the rank-and-file Twitter staff who are still moderating user content.
“Based on our analysis it is clear that there is an internal revolt going on among the woke staff at Twitter. I’m sure they don’t like that their new boss has dissolved the high-level censorship team, but Musk’s actions appear to have motivated the remaining staff to be even more aggressive toward regular conservatives on the platform. They are undercutting Musk’s plan to foster a free speech environment on the platform,” MRC Vice President for Free Speech Dan Schneider said. “Musk has a good history of fixing problems that are brought to his attention. But it is clear that the censorship police are still on the beat at Twitter. Musk still has a lot more housekeeping ahead of him.”
Vazquez did not explain what kind of "analysis" Schneider did that made him reach that conclusion exonerating Musk, or why Musk wasn't to blame for not firing these people, and no explanation was offering as the why SIP-PES is supposedly "elitist."
Meanwhile, neither Schneider nor anyone else at the MRC mentioned one of Musk's massive failures in personnel management earlier that month in openly mocking the disability of an employee who had asked Musk if he was still employed there because he had received no actual layoff notice despite having lost computer access.
The whining continued in a March 31 post by Cornelio:
Former U.S. athletes are slamming Twitter’s hypocrisy for censoring tweets reporting on the “Trans Day Of Vengeance” and not protecting them against the onslaught of Twitter harassment and death threats they faced when they spoke out against biological males in women’s sports.
In an exclusive interview with MRC Free Speech America, Riley Gaines, a 12x All-American swimmer and Stand with Women spokeswoman at the Independent Women’s Forum, and Taylor Silverman, an accomplished competitive skateboarder, pushed back against Twitter’s assault against free speech.
Both called out the platform’s hypocrisy for not protecting them against an onslaught of threats.
Cornelio again censored the fact that there was no call for violence, and he also misleadingly claimed that the protest was called off due to "facing scrutiny in the wake of the Nashville school shooting," even though the tweet he linked to specifically stated there was a "credible threat to life and safety" and mentioned nothing about "scrutiny." He also failed to explain why it was apparently OK that transgender people face an onslaught of threats on Twitter.
Catherine Salgado served up even more whining and victimhood in an April 3 post:
In an all-too-familiar fashion, Twitter locked the New York Post out of its account for a story about the deletion of thousands of tweets relating to violent transgender activism. Twitter owner Elon Musk defended the supposedly accidental censorship on Twitter.
The Post said it tweeted an article about Twitter deleting more than 5,000 tweets with content about a planned (now canceled) “Trans Day of Vengeance.” Twitter went on a wild censorship binge by indiscriminately targeting accounts that promoted the “Trans Day of Vengeance” along with those that condemned the scheduled event.
It’s pathetic that the Post is still being targeted for committing journalism. The Twitter Files revealed Twitter censored the Hunter Biden story in 2020 after a priming campaign by the FBI. A Media Research Center poll found that Big Tech censorship of the Hunter Biden scandal helped steal the 2020 election for Joe Biden.
Salgado omitted the fact that the article reproduced the alleged flyer for the event, which Twitter pointed out was prohibited no matter who posted it.