3 former Twitter executives to testify Wednesday at House hearing over handling of Hunter Biden laptop story

Three former Twitter executives are testifying before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday about Twitter’s decision to temporarily suppress a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, amid concerns from President Joe Biden’s administration and the Republican majority. The investigation is set to be the first high-profile hearing for the new Republican majority. Family

House Oversight Chairman James Comer — a Kentucky Republican who has launched a wide-ranging investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings — told insiders from Twitter staff about the decision to temporarily replace Twitter’s new owner and CEO, Elon Musk. The social media giant is being investigated in the context of releasing communications. Prevent users from sharing a New York Post story in the closing weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign season.

The hearing is the first time former Twitter deputy counsel James Baker, also a former top FBI official, will speak publicly since Musk fired him in December.

Musk himself has suggested that internal communications released as part of his so-called “Twitter Files” reveal government censorship, suggesting that Twitter acted “under orders from the government” when it launched. Clicked on the top story. The “Twitter Files” fueled Comer’s belief that the government may have been involved in suppressing the story.

“We basically want to know what Twitter’s policy was in terms of how they determined what was false information,” Comer said. “We want to know what role the government played in encouraging Twitter to suppress certain stories and certain Twitter accounts. We want to know if and how many tax dollars federal agencies have spent on Twitter because that’s what is what we see – tax dollars.

However, it has previously been reported that the FBI did not support allegations that Twitter suppressed the story, and that half a dozen tech executives and senior staff, along with several federal officials familiar with the matter, All denied that any such instructions were given in the interviews. .

“I am not aware of any illegal collusion with any government agency or political campaign, or any direction regarding how Twitter should have handled the Hunter Biden laptop situation,” Baker said. planned to testify, according to a copy of his opening statement. “While many disagree with how Twitter handled the Hunter Biden case, I believe the public record shows that my client acted in a manner that was fully consistent with the First Amendment. was.”

In addition to Baker, former Twitter chief legal officer Vijay Gade and former head of trust and safety Yul Roth are appearing before the committee.

Democrats, meanwhile, plan to present Annika Collier Navaroli, a former Twitter employee, as a witness during Wednesday’s hearing.

“There’s a serious problem here, what happens when a social media platform is used to incite violent rebellion against the United States government? What are we going to do about it? That’s what we learned from this whistleblower,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee. “Therefore, I think the gravity of his testimony is quite extraordinary compared to the triviality in which the majority engages.”

In his opening statement, Raskin plans to say that by January 6, 2021, Twitter “became a national and global platform for inciting insurgent violence against our government and for coordinating logistical movements and tactics on the day of the attack.” became a forum for. tactic in mob violence against our officers,” according to an excerpt of his prepared remarks.

All the witnesses requested to appear before the committee.

The hearing marks the second straight election where social media companies and the FBI have faced scrutiny over decisions made in the final weeks of a presidential election. After 2016, social media companies like Twitter came under fire for doing too little to police their platforms for disinformation campaigns, particularly from foreign governments like Russia.

Now he’s back in the hot seat for taking policing too far, according to Republicans.

When the New York Post published its story on Hunter Biden’s laptop in October 2020, Twitter executives were highly suspicious of anything that looked like foreign influence and without government direction. She was ready to act on it. Roth had been meeting with the FBI and other government officials for two years and was ready for some kind of hack and leak operation.

“There were many reasons for the entire industry to be on alert,” Roth said at a conference in November, shortly after resigning from Twitter. Roth insists he was not in favor of stopping the story and believed the company’s decision was a mistake.

For Republicans, the testimony of former Twitter executives gives them an opportunity to raise questions not only about the laptop story but about other long-standing conservative grievances about the social media company that Musk has led. Bought last year. The oversight committee’s Republican ranks are filled with conservative hardliners from the conference who have complained about the alleged suppression of conservative voices on Twitter.

“I would ask Twitter executives why they felt they could ban a member of Congress — permanently being a member of Congress. My Twitter account was permanently banned for about a year. ,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, a Republican.

Green’s account was suspended last January for repeatedly violating Twitter’s Covid-19 misinformation policy, the company said at the time. His account was reinstated after Musk bought Twitter in November.

Democrats say they plan to poke holes in Republican allegations surrounding the laptop saga — while questioning the committee’s decision to hold hearings in the first place.

“They’re cherry-picking witnesses that fit their narrative. It’s not like an objective examination of how Twitter works and the good and bad practices that could lead to real reform or regulation. That’s what they’re aiming for here. That’s not it,” said Rep. Gary Connolly, Democrat of Virginia.

Before the hearing, Musk traveled to Capitol Hill and met with several House Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Comer. The Kentucky Republican said Musk gave him suggestions on the questioning, though Comer declined to provide more details ahead of the hearing.

“We’re going to save it,” Comer said. “Thank God for Elon Musk.”

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