Twitter is latest target of right-wing Project Veritas

For Twitter, this week has brought the attack of the right wing.

First, it was sued by a banned far-right news blogger who claims the company violated his free-speech rights. Now Project Veritas has released a couple of videos clearly meant to portray Twitter as extremely liberal and biased — the latest in the barrage of conservatives’ criticism of tech companies’ purported bias against them.

The first video, released Wednesday by the right-wing James O’Keefe outfit known for controversial (and sometimes doctored) videos, shows a Twitter network security engineer saying the company would be willing to help the Department of Justice’s investigation by turning over President Trump’s direct messages and deleted tweets.

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In the eight-minute video, Clay Haynes tells a Project Veritas “undercover journalist” who asks him what the company is doing to rein in Trump because she says “he’s going to get us into so much trouble” that unfortunately, what the president tweets is newsworthy. That is in line with Twitter’s official line on the issue of banning the president. Last week, Twitter basically said it’s not going to happen because he’s a world leader and people need to be able to see and discuss the “important information” he conveys on the platform.

Haynes and the woman from Project Veritas appear to be at a restaurant, and he does not seem to know he is being recorded — recording people without their consent is illegal in California. It’s unclear where the video was recorded, but Twitter is based in San Francisco.

Later, O’Keefe himself, in disguise, talks to Haynes and asks if Twitter is “working with the DOJ” on its investigation into Trump and other figures in his administration. Haynes said he “can’t comment, and even if I knew I wouldn’t comment.”

“They appear to have tricked somebody to say that [Twitter] would comply with a legal process,” said Irina Raicu, director of the Internet Ethics Program at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Thursday. She said the video doesn’t  prove that Twitter as a whole is biased, only that individual employees have “their own political views.”

“The individuals depicted in this video were speaking in a personal capacity and do not represent or speak for Twitter,” a Twitter spokeswoman said Thursday.

She also said: “We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative. Twitter is committed to enforcing our rules without bias and empowering every voice on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.”

O’Keefe — whose book, “American Pravda: My Fight For Truth in the Era of Fake News,” is coincidentally set for release next week — closes out the video by comparing Twitter’s apparent willingness to share Trump’s information with the government to Apple’s refusal to help the FBI unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone in 2016. Apple said then that it didn’t want to set a precedent of violating its customers’ privacy.

“Maybe [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey needs to grow some apples,” O’Keefe said.

Most famously, O’Keefe has recorded videos of employees of Planned Parenthood and the now-defunct ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). In 2013, he agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing him of misrepresenting an ACORN employee in a video, (new) and of violating California privacy laws. He did not admit liability. (end new) Recently, Project Veritas tried to trick the Washington Post related to the newspaper’s coverage of Roy Moore, but the attempt backfired.

Project Veritas released a second video attacking Twitter Thursday. In the 15-minute video, eight current and former Twitter employees — again, they don’t seem to know they’re being recorded and appear to be talking in restaurants and clubs where loud music is playing — talk about the company’s struggle with political content.

The video includes discussion of “shadow banning,” in which the company supposedly limits the audience of a Twitter user’s tweets without notifying that user, essentially meaning that user could be tweeting at nobody. It’s not a new revelation — and other companies with online communities use it partly as an answer to spammers — but the video offers a glimpse of what a former employee thought of it.

“It’s like, unethical in some way, you know?” he says in the video.

O’Keefe then calls on the company to be more transparent, to “bring shadow banning out of the shadows.”

“Twitter does not shadowban accounts,” the Twitter spokeswoman said Thursday. “We do take actions to downrank accounts that are abusive, and mark them accordingly so people can still to click through and see these Tweets if they so choose.” That includes limiting the visibility of tweets, according to Twitter’s help center.

In the video, other former and current Twitter employees also talk about how the company handles pro-Trump bots and algorithms that help block or mute tweets.

What isn’t addressed in the video is why Twitter might want to ban or block some of the content: Some of it isn’t merely conservative; some can be considered abuse or harassment, which is against the company’s rules.

Raicu of the Markkula Center said Thursday “there have been calls for [social media] content to be taken down based on them violating all kinds of norms, no matter who” posts the content. She called Project Veritas’ attempt to shame Twitter as liberal “ironic because there certainly seems to be a lot of conservative voices on Twitter.”

She also said “they’re absolutely within their rights to not allow certain users on their platform.”

Clarification: A statement attributed to Irina Raicu has been updated above. It originally read: “She said the video doesn’t  prove that Twitter as a whole is biased, only that individual employees have their own biases.”

 

Photo: The Twitter logo is displayed at the entrance of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco in 2011. (KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/GettyImages)

 

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  • zipity

    “Far Left-Wing Twitter is latest target of right-wing Project Veritas”

    Fixed it for you.

    You’re welcome.

    • Ragnar__Danneskjold

      The same hacks fear mongering about Net Neutrality repeal leading to censorship have been censoring viewpoints they disagree with for years. Leftists will always be the kings of projection.

      • Smokey

        and hypocrisy. I think they must take something called the “Hypocritic Oath”

  • des111168

    Why does Levi Sumagaysay have the the word journalist in scare quotes in regards to Veritas? He’s an undercover journalist, whether Levi likes what he’s investigating or not.

    • simonts

      Journalist my assh! The correct word are propagandist and liar.

  • Julain Assange

    Guess the author here hasn’t watched the videos or is purposely misrepresenting them. Twitter claimed the first video was the opinion of one person, and not the company as a whole. Then the next video confirms with many more examples. Twitter is run by leftwing stooges, this isn’t any real shocker.

    • Smokey

      They put the liberal spin on it. Nevermind the actual CONTENT of the videos and what they reveal. It’s more about “you showed the world how crappy I am”. Just like the Hillary Emails where they focus on “how did Wikileaks get them?”

  • David Elias

    Funny when you Point Out BS, You are Labeled Right Winger. WTF? Another BS FaceBook Page to Unfollow and Block

  • Darrell Gruber

    I think you meant to say, “Project Veritas shows how the Right is under attack by Left Wing Twitter Twats….”

    Project Veritas has released a couple of videos that clearly show, in no uncertain terms, how Twitter is an extremely liberal and biased organization.

    • LiberalRedneck

      Clearly, the phrase “no uncertain terms” has your little con brain confused. Get help. Reading comprehension, critical thinking and psychiatric counseling would be all goo starts.

    • simonts

      All Vreitas/James O’Keefe videos are fake and doctored, serving only propaganda purposes, without caring about facts and truth.

      • Obo Agboghidi

        still waiting for proof

        • simonts

          See my response above. Don’t be lazy, do some research yourself about James O’Keefe.

  • Jonathan Stoffer

    Wow this author just can’t hide their hatred of the right.

    • simonts

      Yeah, we know, there are “good people” among fascists too, huh?

  • Twitter is still lying about not shadowbanning conservatives, Christians, and whites.

    • ImACarrot

      Jack Dorsey & the others in the Authoritarian Left are going to have to start dying so that they understand their treason has a price. YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY #1A.

      Go ahead .. throw me in jail .,. I’ll just recruit.

      • LiberalRedneck

        Oh Look! Another keyboard commando tough guy, probably on assignment with the 101st Chairborne Division.

        Get a life you phony loser.

        • ImACarrot

          Well you are going to lose in 2018 & 2020. You are wrong about MAGA. We aren’t racist. You are. We aren’t NeoCons. You are. look at what you wanted us to vote for.

    • LiberalRedneck

      proof?

      • The statement they put out today

        • simonts

          That is your interpretation, following the right wing talking points issued for today.

  • ImACarrot

    Kill Jack Dorsey.

  • C + M

    Ahh, label the investigators as “right wing” and that nullifies all their findings, no matter how disturbing they may be.

    • simonts

      James O’Keefe does not “investigate” anything. He is an extreme right political propagandist flame thrower, who uses lies and distortions to trick people, i.e., a scumbag.

      • Obo Agboghidi

        A lot of personal insults…no evidence that the claims that twitter employees admit on camera is wrong.

        • simonts

          James O’Keefe’s history is full of serial lies, distortions and extremist propaganda. Educate yourself about this guy.

          • Obo Agboghidi

            again, no evidence that the claims made on camera by twitter employees are fake. It’s just smears against James.

            That is a weak defense for twitter.

  • LiberalRedneck

    So…O’Keefe is making the case that Twitter is bad and unethical and should be shunned by people, espeically conservatives.

    Great. I agree. Shut it down yesterday and spare us listening the 4 Am ramblings of a backed-up Dotard.

  • Silence Dogood

    Without even going into the 1st Amendment implications of what Twitter did due their monopoly over news in this format, from a strictly business and ethical perspective, what they did was awful, and people of ALL political persuasions should be concerned.

    When Twitter publicly invited everyone to come on, they advertised it as an open platform. They never stated publicly that only “Left-wing” users were welcome.

    So they allowed people to build entire business communication platforms there, and then years later, and without warning, they begin to silently shadow ban some of these people for their political views.

    From a Business Ethics 101 perspective, that’s an extremely unethical thing to do, to the point where it is financially injurious to the victim and gives that victim a valid civil case for breach of agreement or contract by deception.

    Many conservative business and media users pay Twitter for additional advertising features, so I expect that there will be an avalanche of lawsuits over this soon.

    Twitter screwed up bad, to the point where I don’t know if they’ll recover once the lawsuits are finished.

    Sad, because Twitter is a really cool platform.

  • simonts

    “Twitter’s apparent willingness to share Trump’s information with the
    government to Apple’s refusal to help the FBI unlock the San Bernardino
    shooter’s iPhone in 2016. Apple said then that it didn’t want to set a
    precedent of violating its customers’ privacy.” What a bunch of poppycock!! Twitter has to comply with DOJ requests for information in a criminal investigation, not to mention that Trump is a VERY public figure with no right to privacy, as far as his tweets are concerned (which per his press team are “official” “direct” communications of the president). James O’Keefe is disgusting, lying, extreme right wing activist scumbag. Most if not all of his videos are “doctored”, i.e. full of intentional lies and distortions. Such things are not protected by the first amendment, or should not be.

  • David Creighton

    Who was the PhD that came up with the idea of calling all the swing voters “Nazis” and then banning them from Social Media?

 
 
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