Post-Twitter Files – Part 1: Beyond the US social media

Mounting evidence has revealed a well-funded censorship regime across digital platforms, masquerading as anti-disinformation protecting democracy and safety. This cannot be further from the truth.

Since December 2022, when the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, released documents to Matt Taibbi and others, evidence has been presented of an extremely well-funded censorship regime. It masquerades as an anti-disinformation network that is there to protect democracy and safety.  Michael Shellenberger calls this the Censorship-Industrial Complex[1].  The documents are an important marker in revealing the way that governments, government funded institutions, intelligence operatives, military personnel, NGOs, academic institutes and social media platforms worked together to fund censorship and moderate content posted on Twitter. A clear connection can be seen between the U.S. federal government and Twitter’s content moderation. This included removing tweets and the accounts of ordinary American citizens, and lowering the visibility of tweets by journalists, scientists, academics and others who opposed official narratives on hot button topics such as foreign interference in the US and Covid-19. Taibbi states that Americans have been paying to disenfranchise themselves as government agencies and subcontractors undertake a massive digital blacklisting project[2].

Further revelations were released in July 2023, described by Rep. Jim Jordan as “smoking gun docs”, that proved Facebook and Instagram likewise censored posts and changed their content moderation policies due to  unconstitutional pressure from the White House.[3] Unfortunately, and predictably, these revelations have not led to wide legacy media coverage.[4] 

Investigations by Taibbi and others are set within a context of US citizens’ right to free speech which  is protected by the American  Constitution and states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press…”[5].  The American focus of Taibbi’s investigations was demonstrated when he listed his top 50 organisations in the Censorship-Industrial Complex[6] in May 2023.  The majority were from the US with around ten from Europe, including the UK’s 77th Brigade and Full Fact platform, and Europe’s Reveal Project and the EU Disinformation Lab.

…there is already prima facie evidence that fact-checking involves the suppression of legitimate opinions

Important as the American revelations have been, these investigations begin with the relationship between very large online platforms and the US government.  Although the USA is a very significant player, especially relating to fact-check funding, a different perspective emerges when looking at the worldwide extent of fact-checking. This includes fact-check platforms, technology companies, universities, NGOs, civil societies and journalists’ associations that form the support structure for this new, influential and well-funded fact-checking industry.

Globally other governments also interact with the fact-check industry, but their citizens do not have the same free speech protections as Americans. For example, since 2018 the EU Code of Practice for Disinformation has restricted the freedom to publish information that is labelled as misinformation or disinformation.This code was strengthened in 2022 and a new EU media monitoring law, the Digital Services Act came into effect[7, 8].  Very large online platforms are legally required to moderate content and penalties include either suspension of operations , or fines of up to 6% of their global turnover[9]. Signatories of  the EU-strengthened code include fact check platforms, tech companies, researchers and social media platforms[10].  Additionally, and more widely publicised, social media content is sometimes censored in less democratic states under threat of restricting access[11].

Of course, fact-checking per se has always been a function of journalists checking sources and story content to ensure that published news stories are accurate, in order to protect their reputation. This does not mean that news is always accurate or unbiased, as story selection, perspective and external and internal influences inevitably alter the way that information is presented. As documented by the critical political communication literature, journalists have close relationships with governments and powerful organisations and often work in partnership to shape the content of media output. The new fact-checking industry, however, introduces a new layer of influence and control over news production and output.  

The fact-check industry claims it counters disinformation, which they describe as a growing problem:

“The disinformation campaigns we’ve seen proliferate online are becoming well-oiled machines, getting stronger, pivoting faster, and delving deeper”[12].

In fact, statistics are rarely shown on any fact-check platforms to demonstrate the alleged growth, and there are few studies to ascertain which  parties create disinformation. More precisely, there is already prima facie evidence that fact-checking involves the suppression of legitimate opinions.

Taibbi et al’s in-depth and focused examination of the Twitter documents revealed widespread censorship and corruption, but the problem appears to be much bigger. There are four areas that do not emerge from the investigations of the recent US expositions:

  1. The Twitter Files and Facebook revelations concentrate on the US, with some information also provided on Europe, Australia and the UK.[13]  However, the fact-checking industry covers the whole of Europe and the Americas, Spanish and Portuguese–speaking countries worldwide, the Middle East, Asia and Asia Pacific as well as Africa – all have  extensive fact-checking networks.  International networks exist that coordinate the activities of fact-check platforms, the most important of these being the Poynter Institute’s Florida-based International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) with a Code of Principles to which its verified signatories should comply[14].
  2. The US investigations include some mainstream media organisations, but mostly concentrates on social media, whereas fact-checking extends across all media forms, including legacy media – print, radio and television, online news platforms and online games. This involves international, national and local media. The legacy media includes news agencies cooperating to produce compliant standardised news copy that is circulated globally through international news agencies such as Agence France-Presse (AFP)[15] and organisations such as Google[16]. The fact-checking industry also extends to academia, as Taibbi notes. American universities are significant players in fact-checking, but this extends to European and other universities, as well as journalism schools that train student journalists in the new system of fact-checking. 
  3. The Fact-Check industry has significant functions in addition to  content moderation. These include developing and coordinating networks, designing fact-check tools and most importantly, teaching fact-checking skills and media literacy. Courses are usually funded by very large online platforms such as Google and Meta and are offered online, in universities, in civil society organisations and in schools. Media literacy courses extend to journalists and media workers and also focus on students and children – widespread media literacy campaigns influence audiences – especially the young –  to think in a certain way. 
  4. In the Twitter Files, Taibbi described funding of the fact-check industry in the USA and this is similar to the worldwide funding of fact-checkers: EU, US, American and European governments, large Western foundations and trusts, large media corporations, Google, Meta, IFCN and UN departments. These funders extend across the globe: the control of circulating discourses by the Western-funded fact-checking industry in countries outside Europe and the USA has cultural, political, economic and social implications. Whilst Taibbi states that taxpayers in America are paying to disenfranchise themselves, it could also be said that they are also paying to disenfranchise the rest of the world.  

There are similarities in fact-checking processes that bridge the work of Taibbi and others and this study examines the fact-check industry as a whole. The themes of censorship disguised as countering disinformation, restrictions on free expression, government interference and the influence of funders run through both studies.

Part Two of the Post-Twitter Files will include information about  the extent of the fact-checking industry, its international reach and more details about the manner in which fact-checking has infiltrated the legacy media. Part Three will expose more details about the extended roles of fact-checkers, and the colonising effects of a Western-funded fact-check industry in other parts of the world, as well as  some of the reactions of other countries to unsolicited – and often undesired – Western influences on circulating discourses.


  1. Lowenthal, A., “The Information Cartel and the Betrayal of Civil Society.”  Substack. Network Effects, 25 April 2023. <The Information Cartel and the Betrayal of Civil Society (>  [Accessed 16 June 2023}. 
  2. Taibbi, M., “Twitter files: GEC, new knowledge, and state sponsored blacklists.”   Substack, Racket News, 12 March 2023.  <Listen to This Article – Twitter Files: GEC, New Knowledge, and State-Sponsored Blacklists (>  [Accessed 16 June 2023].
  3. Dumais, J-M., “Breaking: Jordan releases ‘Smoking Gun Docs’ Confirming Facebook Bowed to White House Censorship Demands.” The Defender.  27 July 2023. <Breaking: Jordan Releases ‘Smoking Gun Docs’ Confirming Facebook Bowed to White House Censorship Demands • Children’s Health Defense (>  [Accessed 16 August 2023].  
  4. Taibbi, M., “Listen to this article: Press Silence on Latest Twitter Files Scandal a New Low.” Substack, Racket News. 14 June 2023. <Listen to This Article: Press Silence on Latest Twitter Files Scandal a New Low (> [Accessed 16 June 2023].
  5. U.S. Constitution – First Amendment | Resources | Constitution Annotated | | Library of Congress> [Accessed 15 September 2023].
  6. Scmidt, S., Lownethal, A, et al. Report on the Censorship Industrial Complex.  The Top 50 organisations to know. Racket News, Substack, 10 May 2023.  Report on the Censorship-Industrial Complex: The Top 50 Organizations to Know (   [Accessed 20 June 2023]. 
  7. The 2022 Code of Practice on Disinformation | Shaping Europe’s digital future (> [Accessed 17 August 2023].
  8. Digital Services Act Package.  European Commission.  25 September 2023.  <The Digital Services Act package | Shaping Europe’s digital future (>   [Accessed 25 September 2023]
  9. Kogon, R., “What Elon Musk is not telling you about Twitter Censorship.”  Brownstone Institute.  22 February 2023.  <The EU Files: What Elon Musk Is Not Telling You About Twitter Censorship ⋆ Brownstone Institute> [Accessed 16 August 2023]
  10. Signatories of the 2022 Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation | Shaping Europe’s digital future (>  [Accessed 17 August 2023].
  11. “India, Nigeria and Turkey threatened Twitter shutdown.”  Al Jazeera.  13 June 2023.  <India, Nigeria, Turkey threatened Twitter shutdown: Jack Dorsey | Censorship News | Al Jazeera> [Accessed 17 August 2023}.
  12. Byron, K. “What to expect in 2021 in the world of misinformation online.” Poynter Institute, 6 January. 2023 <What to expect in 2021 in the world of misinformation online – Poynter>  [Accessed 20 June 2023].
  13. Taibi, Matt., “UK Files” Reports Show: Both Left and Right Can Be Targets of Censors”, Substack, Racket News. 14 November 2023.
  14. “Commit to transparency – sign up for the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles” (2023), Florida USA: Poynter Institute. 2023. <IFCN Code of Principles (> [Accessed 16 August 2023]
  15. European Data News Hub – XWiki (>  [Accessed 16 August 2023]
  16. Google News> [Accessed 16 August 2023]

Publisher’s note: The opinions and findings expressed in articles, reports and interviews on this website are not necessarily the opinions of PANDA, its directors or associates.

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