Former Twitter executives tell House committee deleting story from Hunter Biden’s laptop was a ‘mistake’

Former Twitter executives told a House committee on Wednesday that the social media company erred in addressing a controversial New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

The social media platform’s action just weeks before the 2020 election sparked a flurry of backlash from Republicans, who accused Twitter executives of deleting the story to protect the President Joe Biden and his family about what they think after malicious material on a laptop hard drive belonged to the president’s son.

At a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing, Republicans asked the three leaders about the company’s decision to block users from sharing young Biden’s story and suggested that the giant social media, on government orders, took action when it deleted the story.

“America has witnessed a coordinated campaign by social media companies, mainstream media, and the intelligence community to suppress and delegitimize the existence of Hunter Biden’s laptop and its contents,” he said. said James Comer, R-Ky., Chairman of the Oversight Committee, in his opening remarks.

Former Twitter employees called the platform’s decision on the story a “mistake”, but denied acting in concert with government officials.

“It was clear to me that, in my judgment at the time, Twitter should not have taken any action to block New York Post reporting,” said Yoel Roth, former chief security and integrity officer. He said the company made the decision because the story of the Biden laptop is reminiscent of the 2016 Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee.

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former chief legal officer, echoed Roth saying that Twitter admitted “its initial action was wrong” and changed its policy within 24 hours.

Vijaya Gadde, former legal director of Twitter, speaks during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing on Twitter’s handling of a 2020 New York Post article about Hunter Biden and his laptop on 8 February 2023 in Washington, DC, excl.

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

“The New York Post chose not to remove its original tweets, so after two weeks Twitter made an exception to retroactively apply the new policy to Post tweets,” Gadde said. “In hindsight, Twitter should have reactivated the Post account immediately.”

During the hearing, Roth also said that Twitter’s relationship with government employees would benefit from greater transparency.

“Transparency is at the heart of this work, and that’s where I think Twitter — and all social media — can and should improve,” Roth said. “Trust is built on understanding, and right now the vast majority of people don’t understand how or why content moderation decisions are made.”

Republicans have accused former Twitter executives of being “afraid” Joe Biden won’t win the 2020 election and working with the FBI.

“You were given supreme power over Twitter, but when you were confronted with the New York Post story, you rushed to come up with a reason why the American people shouldn’t see it, rather than allowing people to see it. people to read the information and judge it for yourself”. Comer said. “Within hours, you have decided the truth about a story that spans years and dozens of complex international transactions. You did this because you feared Joe Biden would win the 2020 election.”

R-Ohio Jim Jordan accused Twitter executives of having “weekly meetings” with the FBI and accused the executives of colluding with the agency to remove the New York Post article.

“I think you wanted him out,” Jordan said. “They send you all kinds of emails… I think you wanted to put it out. I think the FBI tricked you.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who was briefly suspended from Twitter in 2021 for tweeting the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, also accused former Twitter employees of “collaborating with the FBI”.

“I am angry at the millions of Americans who have been silenced because of your decisions, because of your actions, because of your collusion with the federal government,” Boebert said.

“We don’t know where the FBI ends and where Twitter begins,” Boebert said.

But Roth denied the allegations, telling the committee that the FBI had not told Twitter that the laptop’s hard drive was fake or hacked.

Former Twitter assistant attorney James Baker, who was fired by new Twitter CEO Elon Musk in December, also said he was not in contact with the FBI about the decision. company to delete the article.

At one point during the hearing, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., questioned former Twitter employee Anika Collier Navaroli about a Trump White House request for Twitter to remove a tweet from celebrity Chrissy Teigen, who was president during the Donald era. Trump offended.

“The White House contacted Twitter almost immediately afterwards to request that the tweet be removed. Is that correct?” asked Connolly Navaroli.

“I remember hearing that we got a request from the White House to make sure we evaluate this tweet and they wanted it taken down because it was a derogatory statement to the president” , replied Navaroli.

Hunter Biden walks toward a vehicle after disembarking from Air Force One with his father, President Joe Biden, at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York, Feb. 4, 2023.

Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Twitter did not remove the tweet, she said.

During the hearing, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said Republicans were focused on a “two-year-old story” about a private company being allowed to make decisions about what content to allow on its platform. -form.

“The key point here is that it was Twitter’s decision,” Raskin said in his opening statement. “Twitter is a private media company. In America, private media companies can decide what gets published. »

“Rather than drop this meaningless lawsuit, my colleagues attempted to foment a fake scandal over this two-day shortcoming in their ability to deliver Hunter Biden propaganda on a private media platform,” Raskin said of the hearing. “Silly doesn’t even begin to capture this obsession.”

Democrats instead focused on how the social media platform may have helped fuel violence in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“What makes this hearing tragic is that if our colleagues really wanted to look at a serious issue affecting American democracy and social media, my friends, that’s pretty obvious to us,” Raskin said.

Navaroli also argued that lawmakers should focus on “Twitter’s inability to act before Jan. 6.”

“Twitter executives gave in and broke their own rules to protect some of the most dangerous speech on the platform,” Navaroli said in the months leading up to the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.


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