Four former Twitter senior staffers appeared before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee to answer questions about the company’s operations and policy, with a special focus on biased censorship policies that disproportionately target conservative viewpoints.
The hearing is part of the first public investigation of the Biden family’s business dealing. The committee is seeking information about Twitter’s decision to restrict the ability to share a story from The New York Post about Hunter Biden and information found on his laptop, which was left at a Delaware repair shop. Twitter had prevented links to the article from being shared for several days and labeled the content misinformation.
The platform’s former chief legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, former deputy general counsel, James Baker, former head of safety and integrity, Yoel Roth, and former member of Twitter’s U.S. safety policy team, Anika Collier Navaroli, were all present for the hearing.
“We had developed a policy intended to prevent Twitter from becoming a dumping ground for hacked materials,” Gadde told the committee. “We applied this policy to the New York Post’s tweets and blocked links to articles.”
The former Twitter employees stated that the platform’s policies were intended to prevent violence.
“I am here to tell you that doing nothing is not an option. If we continue to do nothing, violence is going to happen again,” said Navaroli.
Navaroli was a Twitter whistleblower who gave information to the U.S. House Committee Investigating the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. She was given the “Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling for her courage in coming forward to speak truth to the committee,” according to the Government Accountability Project.
Republicans on the committee pressed the former senior staff members to explain labels such as “Notification Spikes,” “Search Blacklist” and “Do Not Amplify” which had been applied to the accounts of well-known conservative figures such as Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk.
Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan pressed Roth and Baker about their correspondence with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene suggested that the Twitter executives took part in election inference by suspending her campaign account for alleged “COVID-19 misinformation,” which was only reinstated after her election was over.
“None of you hold a security clearance. No of you were elected. And none of you represent 750,000 people like I do,” she said during the hearing. Greene stressed that her Democratic opponent was not subjected to the same restrictions and scrutiny she was.
“Thank God Elon Musk bought Twitter,” said. Greene. “You permanently banned my Twitter account, but you allowed child porn all over Twitter.”
Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, Yoel Roth was in charge of “Trust & Safety” at the company while child porn was all over the platform.
Is this why? pic.twitter.com/u2vUTq6nvw
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) February 8, 2023
Kentucky Congressman James Comer produced a copy of a tweet from Roth saying there were “actual nazis” in the White House under President Donald Trump. He is the chair of the Oversight Committee.
Democrats widely denounced the investigations.
First-term Congressman Maxwell Frost of Florida said he “wasn’t seeing the point of the hearing.” and that there was no collusion to censor individual users.
“My Republican colleagues would have folks believe that Democrats are preparing for some sort of major culture war. And there is a difference between a culture war and how culture naturally changes. Some on this committee are very resistant to culture change.”
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought up the popular account LibsofTikTok — stating the account shared false information about Boston’s Children’s Hospital offering hysterectomies as a treatment for those who say that they are transgender. In the post, LibsofTikTok shared a video produced by the hospital in which Dr. Frances Grimstad discussed “gender-affirming hysterectomies.”
Ocasio-Cortez said “far-right” commentators reshared the story and that the “right-wing” is obsessed with “fixating violence and inciting violence against trans people.”
Yoth confirmed to the Congresswoman that the LibsofTikTok posts were still “regrettably” available on Twitter.
Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democratic member of the Oversight Committee, said that Twitter was not bound by the First Amendment.
Rasking said in his opening statement:
“Twitter is a private media company. In America, private media companies can decide what to publish or how to curate content however they want. If Twitter wants to have nothing but tweets commenting on New York Post articles run all day, it can do that; and if it makes it so tweets mentioning the New York Post never see the light of day, it can do that too. That’s what the First Amendment means.”
“Evidence obtained by Committee Republicans reveals Joe Biden lied to the American people about his involvement in his family’s business schemes,” he said in a statement. “The American people deserve transparency and accountability about the Biden family’s influence peddling.”
The Feb. 8 hearing is titled “Protecting Speech from Government Interference and Social Media Bias, Part 1: Twitter’s Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story.”