From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Did the Jan. 6 committee give social media companies a pass?
Date January 18, 2023 12:30 PM
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A stunning report from The Washington Post counters the narrative that Twitter silenced the voices of conservatives and Trump supporters. Email not displaying correctly?
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** Did the Jan. 6 committee give social media companies a pass?
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Here’s a disturbing opening in a Washington Post story ([link removed]) from reporters Cat Zakrzewski, Cristiano Lima and Drew Harwell:

The Jan. 6 committee spent months gathering stunning new details on how social media companies failed to address the online extremism and calls for violence that preceded the Capitol riot.

The evidence they collected was written up in a 122-page memo that was circulated among the committee, according to a draft viewed by The Washington Post. But in the end, committee leaders declined to delve into those topics in detail in their final report, reluctant to dig into the roots of domestic extremism taking hold in the Republican Party beyond former president Donald Trump and concerned about the risks of a public battle with powerful tech companies, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the panel’s sensitive deliberations.

In other words, the Post is reporting that the Jan. 6 committee held back to avoid angering tech companies and some conservatives.

Wait, there’s more.

The Post also wrote, “Congressional investigators found evidence that tech platforms — especially Twitter — failed to heed their own employees’ warnings about violent rhetoric on their platforms and bent their rules to avoid penalizing conservatives, particularly then-president Trump, out of fear of reprisals. The draft report details how most platforms did not take ‘dramatic’ steps to rein in extremist content until after the attack on the Capitol, despite clear red flags across the internet.”

That’s a stunning paragraph. It, essentially, goes completely against the narrative that Twitter silenced the voices of conservatives and Trump supporters. It’s the opposite of what Twitter owner Elon Musk and the “Twitter Files” have been suggesting for a while now.

Instead, the Post reports, the Jan. 6 committee focused on Trump and “missed an opportunity to hold social media companies accountable for their actions, or lack thereof.”

The landscape of social media has changed since Jan. 6. As the Post notes, “Understanding the role social media played in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol takes on greater significance as tech platforms undo some of the measures they adopted to prevent political misinformation on their platforms. Under new owner Elon Musk, Twitter has laid off most of the team that reviewed tweets for abusive and inaccurate content and restored several prominent accounts that the company banned in the fallout from the Capitol attack, including Trump’s and that of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Facebook, too, is considering allowing Trump back on its platform, a decision expected as early as next week.”

The Jan. 6 committee focused on Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, but it did have information about what was going on within the tech companies leading up to and on Jan. 6.

But, the Post wrote, “… as the committee’s probe kicked its public phase into high gear, the social media report was repeatedly pared down, eventually to just a handful of pages. While the memo and the evidence it cited informed other parts of the committee’s work, including its public hearings and depositions, it ultimately was not included as a stand-alone chapter or as one of the four appendixes.”

I encourage you to read the entire Post story. It paints a picture that is both disturbing and revealing.

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** Save local news: Involve college students!

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Learn more ([link removed])

** Speaking of Musk and Twitter …

New York Magazine’s Zoe Schiffer, Casey Newton and Alex Heath have a new story out about Twitter: “Extremely Hardcore.” ([link removed]) The subhead: Twitter’s staff spent years trying to protect the platform against impulsive ranting billionaires — then one made himself the CEO.”

This feels like the definitive Musk-Twitter story so far.

The story accurately recounts how Donald Trump weaponized Twitter to help him win the presidency. But, New York Magazine wrote, after the 2016 election, Twitter overhauled its content-moderation policies, adding, “Never again would it let itself be used by a tyrant to sow discord and increase polarization.”

Trump was banned after the Jan. 6 insurrection and, supposedly, Musk was so irked about what he saw as a lack of free speech on Twitter that he just had to buy it.

But what has Twitter become since Musk took over? The free speech he so publicly champions does not apply to some journalists who have criticized Musk or linked to their own Instagram accounts. And, as New York points out, his “free speech” most definitely does not apply to those inside the company who were fired for criticisms of Musk and what has become of Twitter.

The New York story is long and detailed, but worth your time. It delves into the days following Musk’s takeover and what the atmosphere was like in the offices. It goes over how massive layoffs went down. It also shows just how overmatched Musk seemed to be when it came to the inner workings of Twitter.

In the end, it paints a pretty grim picture of Twitter’s present and a less-than-rosy outlook for its future. As New York concludes: “… Musk appears unaware of what he’s actually broken: the company culture that built Twitter into one of the world’s most influential social networks, the policies that attempted to keep that platform safe, and the trust of the users who populate it every day with their conversations, breaking news, and weird jokes — Twitter’s true value and contributions to the world.”

** One more about Twitter

Axios’ Sara Fischer reports, “Dozens of media companies set 2023 content deals with Twitter.” ([link removed])

Fischer writes, “Elon Musk's leadership style has caused many advertisers to flee, but media companies, newsrooms and sports leagues are reaping too much revenue and marketing advantage to quit the platform.”

So how does it work? Fischer writes, “The program pairs advertisers with timely videos from premium publishers, and publishers split a percentage of ad revenue made from their videos with Twitter. Some content partners, like NBCU, sell ads directly to brands that want to sponsor their videos and share a portion of that ad revenue with Twitter. Others, like the NFL, rely on Twitter to sell the ads across their video content. Most of these media partnerships are multiyear deals and were brokered before Musk took over Twitter. Some deals, like the NFL's partnership with Twitter, are worth seven figures if they run for their full term, according to two sources familiar with the agreements.”

** They fought where?
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. R-Ga., left, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., center, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., listen during the 15th round of votes in the House chamber on Jan. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Here is the juicy headline of the day from The Daily Beast: “The Bathroom Fight Fueling Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert’s Break-Up.” ([link removed])

Daily Beast political reporters Ursula Perano and Zachary Petrizzo wrote that the two polarizing Republican congresswomen ended up in a “screaming match in the Speaker’s lobby ladies room just off the House floor.”

At the heart of the brouhaha was Georgia’s Greene being upset with Colorado’s Boebert because of Boebert’s refusal to back Kevin McCarthy for speaker of the House. One source told The Daily Beast that Greene said, “You were OK taking millions of dollars from McCarthy but you refuse to vote for him for Speaker, Lauren?”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) was apparently in the restroom at the time, but she had a perfect response when asked about it by The Daily Beast: “What happens in the ladies room stays in the ladies room.”

There also could be more to this divide, especially when it comes to supporting Donald Trump. Greene is a big backer of Trump, while The Daily Beast reported Boebert’s support of Trump as “shaky.”

Perano And Petrizzo wrote, “Not so long ago, Boebert and Greene moved essentially in lockstep. They regularly voted together — sometimes siding against the rest of the entire House of Representatives. And they were — and still are — two of the most recognizable women on the far right. Beyond being ideologically aligned, however, the two actually seemed to be friends. They were often spotted together around the Capitol complex. They’d go to press conferences together. ‘Saturday Night Live’ once even branded Boebert and Greene as a gun-brandishing duo. And perhaps most notably, they regularly sat with each other on the House floor.”

But the reporters added, “By the turn of the new year, it was clear: there was a full-on breakup.”

Who said politics are boring?

** One of the good ones retires

Veteran reporter Kerry Sanders is retiring after 32 years at NBC News. As NBC’s Scott Stump noted ([link removed]) , Sanders has reported on stories from all 50 states and done everything, such as adventures “like jumping out of airplanes and hanging from cliffs, or essential reporting on elections, mass shootings and legal trials that captivated the country.”

Sanders told the “Today” show, “I think that I can’t believe that I had this amazing opportunity to join this family. I still pinch myself to think that you all welcomed me and that I was a part of this. It’s been a dream come true.”

Stump’s story includes a video tribute of Sanders’ career as well as an interview with Sanders.

Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark also offers a tribute to Sanders: “My favorite broadcast journalist, Kerry Sanders, just retired. What will I do now?” ([link removed])

** Media tidbits
ABC News’ Rachel Scott. (ABC/Danny Weiss)
* ABC News has promoted Rachel Scott to senior congressional correspondent. Scott has been covering Congress for the past two years.
* Writing for Poynter, Emanuella Grinberg with “When a journalist’s actions become the focus of a murder trial.” ([link removed])
* Tweet of the day: this Vice News video ([link removed]) shows Fox News’ obsession with the word “woke.”
* Washington Post senior assignment editor Amanda Katz with “Why the scary, funny, profane ‘FAFO’ was 2022’s word of the year.” ([link removed])
* New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand reports ([link removed]) that Kathryn Tappen will be the sideline reporter on NBC’s Big Ten football coverage. Up until now, Tappen was probably best known for her solid work as a studio host on NBC’s NHL coverage, but NBC no longer has broadcast rights to the NHL

** Hot type
* Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim with “I Embraced MMA. But Slap Fighting: What Are We Doing Here?” ([link removed])
* A little fun to end today’s report: The New York Times’ Emily Anthes with “Snarl, You’re on Candid Camera.” ([link removed])
* And how about some awesome dog photos? The Guardian with “Pooch portraits: Dog Photography awards – in pictures.” ([link removed])

** More resources for journalists
* Subscribe to PolitiFact’s weekly newsletter ([link removed]) . Get facts delivered straight to your inbox.
* Time for a new job ([link removed]) ? Your future employer is looking for you on The Media Job Board — Powered by Poynter, Editor & Publisher and America’s Newspapers. Search now! ([link removed])
* Leadership Academy for Diversity in Media ([link removed]) (Seminar) — Apply by Feb. 17 ([link removed]) .
* Lead With Influence ([link removed]) (Feb. 2023) (Seminar) — Register by Jan 30 ([link removed]) .

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at .
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