Musk: 'Twitter files' show U.S. demanded suspension of 250,000 users, including CNN, Canada

A State Department agency reportedly flagged journalists and foreign government accounts for Twitter to review.

Published: January 4, 2023 12:06pm

Updated: January 4, 2023 3:15pm

Twitter CEO Elon Musk says the State Department demanded that 250,000 accounts be suspended – including those of journalists and foreign government officials.

"US govt agency demanded suspension of 250k accounts, including journalists & Canadian officials!" Musk tweeted Tuesday in response to reporter Matt Taibbi, who published the latest edition of the Twitter Files, which are a series of revelations about the social media company that Musk gave to reporters.

In a thread Tuesday – titled "Twitter and the FBI 'Belly Button' " – Taibbi stated that the social media platform was tired of being bypassed as agencies took lists of suspicious accounts directly to the media.

Twitter convinced the State Department's Global Engagement Center to inform the platform about questionable accounts. 

Emails published by Taibbi show Twitter employees discussing CNN's May 2020 story that the center flagged nearly 250,000 accounts, which a spokesperson for the federal agency said at the time "were created with the intent to amplify Chinese propaganda and disinformation."

One Twitter employee said in an email that the government's list of accounts included CNN, the Canadian military and users following two or more Chinese diplomats.

Emails from Twitter's former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, appear to show the platform viewed the FBI and Department of Homeland Security as apolitical and seemed to prefer being involved with the agencies over the Global Engagement Center.

Despite spending years following other requests to take action on accounts with opposing views, Roth said in an email that Twitter would not follow the center's request because it would cause "major risks" ahead of the 2020 election.

"I think they thought the FBI was less Trumpy," a former Defense Department official told Taibbi.

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