Former executives with Twitter acknowledged to lawmakers on Wednesday that the social media company made errors when it suppressed a story from the New York Post about Hunter Biden’s laptop in October 2020. However, company officials maintained there was no government involvement in the decision.
GOP House members grilled the social media execs, including James Baker, former Twitter deputy counsel, over Twitter’s handling of the laptop story as well as wide-reaching complaints about censorship at the first House Oversight Committee hearing for the new Republican majority that is also looking into President Joe Biden’s administration as well as the actions of his family members.
Twitter’s new CEO and owner Elon Musk has suggested his “Twitter files” internal communications that have been released show censorship by the government and suggest Twitter acted “under orders from the government” when the laptop story was suppressed. However, executives with the company maintained they did not receive any requests from the government to stop the story.
Former Head of Trust and Safety for Twitter, Yoel Roth, testified there was much confusion over managing the story amid an ongoing focus on tackling misinformation on the platform.
“It isn’t obvious what the right response is to a suspected but not confirmed cyberattack by another government on a presidential election,” said Roth. “I believe Twitter erred in this case because we wanted to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016.”
Rep. Comer launches far-reaching investigation into Bidens, social media dealing with FBI
Kentucky Republican Representative James Comer, who serves as chairman of the House Oversight Chairman, has launched an extensive investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings and the social media behemoth in the wake of the internal communications released by Musk. The communications involved blocking users from sharing the Hunter Biden New York Post story in the waning weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign.
“America witnessed a coordinated campaign by social media companies, mainstream news, and the intelligence communities to suppress and delegitimized the existence of Hunter Biden’s laptop and its contents,” said Comer, and added Twitter “worked hand-in-hand with the FBI to monitor the protected speech of Americans, receiving millions of dollars to do so.”
Twitter executives admitted the social media giant made errors in handling the Post story but emphasized that the increased focus on combating disinformation makes the decision-making process more complicated.
Twitter’s former chief legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, testified that, in retrospect, Twitter should have immediately reinstated the account of the New York Post after the company reversed its decision to block the story about Hunter Biden.
Roth said that while he disagreed with the decision to quash the laptop story temporarily, but said the “real Russian activities painted the judgment of the company they (we) saw play out that year.”
However, Republicans blasted witnesses for holding the story back because it may have been part of a Russian effort to influence the 2020 election.
“You all led the American people to believe (it) was Russian disinformation, when in fact it was not,” said Comer. “This is something this committee should be concerned about.”
Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who serves as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and serves on the panel of the House Oversight Committee, claimed that former employees at Twitter were “played by the FBI” and argued that executives at the company searched for reasons to take down posts about Hunter Biden and the New York Post story.
“I think you guys wanted it to be taken down,” said Jordan.
Rep. Jordan suggested Twitter was tricked by a group of former national security officials who wrote that the emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop had “earmarks” of a Russian intelligence plot and may have been fake. However, since then, news outlets have been able to confirm some of the emails’ authenticity.
“The information operation was run on you guys,” said Jordan.
Comer and Jordan both questioned Baker — who was previously the top lawyer with the FBI — about whether or not he spoke with any individuals at the FBI about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Before the hearing, Musk traveled to Capitol Hill and met with numerous Republicans in the House, including Comer and Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. Comer said Musk gave him tips on lines of questioning but would not give further details.
“We’re going to save it,” said Comer. “Thank God for Elon Musk.”
Rep. Jordan has long claimed the FBI has been politicized.