Ex-Twitter executives faced heated questions from members of Congress over the allegations that the company purposefully suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story to affect the outcome of the 2020 election.
Former Twitter executive Yoel Roth claimed that Twitter’s decision to suppress the laptop story came from fears that it was Russian disinformation and that they did not want to affect the outcome of the election by helping share potentially bogus information.
“Twitter noticed activity related to the laptop that at first glance bore a lot of similarities to the 2016 Russian hack and leak operation targeting the DNC,” Roth said during a hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. “We had to decide what to do. And in that moment with limited information, Twitter made a mistake.”
He explained that the company’s policy on hacked and leaked information pushed them to prevent the posting of links to the story from media outlets, such as the New York Post. He acknowledged that it was ultimately an error. He said that making decisions about suspected cyberattacks that could affect an important election is not easy.
Rep. @Jim_Jordan grills former FBI official and Former Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker on whether he discussed the Hunter Biden Laptop story with the FBI pic.twitter.com/F7bVwYCWHh
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) February 8, 2023
“Defending free expression and maintaining the health of the platform required tough judgement calls,” Vijaya Gadde, former head of Twitter Trust and Safety, said. “We recognize that after applying our rules, we might learn some of them might not work like we imagined and that we might need to update them.”
She said that the New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop contained embedded images that looked like they could’ve been acquired through hacking. She claimed that in 2018 Twitter developed a policy that would prevent the site from becoming “a dumping ground for hacked materials” and that this policy was applied to the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden’s laptop and source materials. She also acknowledged that Twitter did not realize the impact its decision had on the freedom of the press and reporting. She then said that Twitter changed its policy within a 24-hour timeframe, which later allowed links of the New York Post’s article to be shared on the site.
Former deputy general counsel Jim Baker denied any recollection about speaking to the FBI about the Hunter Biden laptop story in a testy exchange with Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
“I don’t recall speaking to the FBI. Sitting here today, I don’t recall speaking to the FBI at all about the Hunter Biden matter,” Baker said.
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee James Comer claimed that social media sites are hampering speech and discourse.
“These platforms are the virtual town square,” Comer said, “However many social media platforms are under the control of people that are hostile to the fundamental American values of free speech and expression.”