Watch: Republicans blast former Twitter executives for censoring Hunter Biden laptop story during hearing

"Instead of allowing people to judge the information for themselves, you rush to find a reason why the American people shouldn't see it."

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During today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on Twitter’s censorship of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story in October 2020, Republicans laid into former Twitter executives for the suppression of this and other stories. Democrats downplayed and reframed the censorship, with some branding it “half fake” and a “conspiracy.”

The hearing was titled “Protecting Speech from Government Interference and Social Media Bias, Part 1: Twitter’s Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story” and featured the testimony of four former Twitter employees:

  • Vijaya Gadde (Twitter’s former Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead)
  • Yoel Roth (Twitter’s former Head of Trust and Safety)
  • Jim Baker (Twitter’s former Deputy General Counsel)
  • Annika Collier Navaroli (a former senior expert on Twitter’s US Safety Policy Team)

Rep. James Comer, the Republican Chair of the House Oversight Committee, opened the hearing by blasting Twitter for its suppression of “conservative elected officials, journalists, and activists” and “anyone whose opinion strayed from what they deemed acceptable.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the leader of the Oversight Committee Democrats, followed up by claiming that investigating Twitter’s censorship of the New York Post Hunter Biden laptop story was a “trivial pursuit.” Raskin also claimed the censorship “had no discernible influence on anyone or anything,” despite 79% of Americans believing that not censoring the story would have changed the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election.

Several Republicans drilled down on specific instances of Twitter censorship and grilled the former Twitter employees during the hearing. Some new allegations and evidence of censorship was also presented by Republicans.

Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna introduced a graphic showing Twitter using Jira, a cloud-based issue tracking and product management service, to communicate with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), and others. Luna also showed a November 3, 2020 Jira exchange between Roth, CISA, and several other entities where they communicated to “remove a posting.”

Roth didn’t deny this communication or Twitter’s use of Jira to communicate with these groups. Instead, Roth said he “wouldn’t agree with the characterization.”

“This…is joint action between the federal government and a private company to censor and violate the First Amendment,” Luna said. “It’s highly illegal. You were all engaged in this action. And I want you to know that you will be all held accountable.”

Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert asked Roth and Gadde whether they shadowbanned her account. After both of the executives denied this, Boebert fired back and accused Roth of shadowbanning her account.

“I found out last night from Twitter staff that you suppressed my account for this tweet,” Boebert said while referring to a joke about failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “being angry that she couldn’t rig her election.”

Boebert continued by claiming that Twitter had placed a 90 day “aggressive visibility filter” on her account that excluded her from top searches, prevented notifications for non-followers, and more.

“You silenced me from communicating with the American people over a freaking joke,” Boebert said. “Who do you think you are?”

Republican Rep. Nancy Mace blasted Twitter for its censorship of doctors like epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff.

“Why do you think you or anyone else at Twitter had the medical expertise to censor a doctor’s expert opinion?” Mace asked Gadde.

Rep. James Comer accused Twitter of rushing to “find a reason” to censor the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story from the American people.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan quizzed the former Twitter executives on why they had censored the Hunter Biden laptop story, despite admitting it didn’t violate their policies.

While being questioned by Jordan, Roth also testified that he didn’t think the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) flagging tweets to Twitter was a violation of the First Amendment.

Additionally, Roth confirmed revelations from the Twitter Files about how Twitter shadow banned users when questioned by Jordan and admitted that, as of the time he worked at Twitter, users “don’t know” when they’ve had strikes such as “Do Not Amplify” or “Search Blacklist” applied to their account.

Republican Rep. Byron Donalds pressed the former Twitter execs on censorship request from the “Biden Team” but they didn’t have answers.

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene used her time to blast the former Twitter employees for banning her personal account in January 2022, noting that she relied on the account for running campaign ads, raising money, and communicating with voters in her district. The account was only reinstated in November 2022 — after Greene had been reelected.

Republican Rep. Clay Higgins warned the former Twitter executives that, “This is the investigation part, later comes the arrest part, your attorneys are familiar with that.”

While Republicans attempted to get more information on Twitter’s censorship of various high profile stories and topics, several Democrats sought to lessen and dismiss the censorship revelations.

Democrat Rep. Becca Balint claimed that it’s “simply not true” that there’s “evidence that the Biden campaign colluded with Big Tech to suppress a story that we now know is 100% true,” even though there are references to emails from the Biden team asking Twitter to review tweetes in the Twitter Files.

Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went as far as claiming that the New York Post Hunter Biden laptop story was “disinformation” and “half fake,” even though the story has been validated.

Democrat Rep. Melanie Stansbury claimed that the Hunter Biden laptop story was a “political conspiracy theory” and complained about “anti-Semitism, hate speech, dangerous rhetoric, election tampering, disinformation” on Twitter.

Democrat Rep. Summer Lee claimed that “allegations of anti-conservative bias are actually making Twitter and other social media companies less willing to enforce their own policies against political conservatives” and “making it harder” for Twitter employees to enforce “hate speech” policies.

Democrat Rep. Katie Porter branded the hearing “an exercise in misinformation and disinformation.”

While much of the hearing focused on Twitter’s censorship of Republicans, Democrat Rep. Gerry Connolly claimed that the Trump White House made a censorship request in September 2019.

According to Connolly, the Trump White House told Twitter to take down a “derogatory” tweet from model Chrissy Teigen where she referred to then-President Trump as a “pussy ass bitch.”

Connolly questioned Navaroli about this alleged incident and she said her supervisors had told her that Twitter had received “something along those lines” and “a request from the White House to make sure that we evaluated this tweet and that they wanted it to come down because it was a derogatory statement directly towards the President.”

Comer concluded the hearing by saying that Twitter’s suppression of this story is important because the Hunter Biden laptop contains evidence “that should concern ever American.”

You can watch the entire hearing and get a transcript of the opening statements here.

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