The Twitter accounts of some public figures such as Barack Obama and Joe Biden were hacked on July 15. Senator Hawley wants Twitter to clarify the participation of employees in the attack and also has some questions about the platform’s moderation policies.
The senator has asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey if any of his employees facilitated the attack voluntarily. He also asked Dorsey to explain the term “blacklist” which appeared in some of the leaked screenshots.
“Can you explain the ‘blacklists’ shown in leaked screenshots?” The tweet posted by the senator’s press office read.
NEW — Sen. Josh Hawley has more questions for @jack in the wake of Twitter's massive security breach.
Did any Twitter employee voluntarily participate in or facilitate Wednesday’s incident?
— Senator Hawley Press Office (@SenHawleyPress) July 17, 2020
The tweet was accompanied by screenshots of a letter addressed to Dorsey, which contains more inquiries.
Read the full letter here.
Twitter explained that the breach was as a result of a “coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.” However, as the senator notes in the letters, press reports suggest that a Twitter employee was paid to aid the breach.
Therefore, in the letter, he asks Dorsey whether he has any knowledge of any employee aiding the attack voluntarily and, if so if he knew about it before claiming that the hackers were able to breach accounts by first targeting employees.
Reports also suggest that screenshots of the platform’s internal tools have been doing rounds in the hacking community. These screenshots revealed that Twitter uses terms such as “Search Blacklists,” “Read Only,” “Bounced,” and “Trends Blacklist” to flag content.
Users who shared those screenshots were suspended. The senator sees that as ironic from a company that continually insists that it “does not engage in politically biased “shadowbanning” and the public interest in Twitter’s moderation practices.”
Hawley asks Dorsey to explain those flag terms and asks him to explain if those flags affect the visibility of a user’s speech. The senator also wants to know if Twitter tells users that they have been affected by those or other moderation measures.
Additionally, Hawley wants Dorsey to explain if such moderation measures, which appear to limit the visibility of tweets, have been applied to the accounts of Trump and other elected officials.
Hawley also wants Twitter to explain how Twitter uses such flags without being politically biased.
“Please explain the rules that Twitter uses to implement such flags on user accounts and tweets and the process by which Twitter ensures that such implementation is not conducted in a politically biased manner. As you no doubt recall, you have testified to Congress that ‘We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially. We do not shadowban anyone based on political ideology.’ This statement indicates that your use of these internal systems is governed by ‘rules’ rather than mere discretion,” part of the letter reads.