By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Former Twitter executives told a Republican-led US House committee on Wednesday they erred by blocking tweets on a laptop said to belong to President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, but they said they claimed government officials were not involved.
In a hard-fought day-long hearing before the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Republicans said Twitter worked with government officials and the media to suppress a New York Post article about the laptop’s contents, two weeks before the victory Biden’s 2020 campaign on former President Donald Trump, a Republican.
The committee’s witnesses, three former Twitter executives, said in quoted testimony that they mistakenly believed the Post article contained compromised material and reversed their decision to restrict its circulation on the social media platform within 24 hours.
Democrats accused Republicans of pursuing a politically motivated fishing expedition against Biden and expressed concern about witness intimidation after a Republican lawmaker warned former executives they would be held accountable for activities he deemed “highly illegal.”
The proceedings, which came a day after Biden offered to work with Republicans on some of the nation’s toughest issues in his State of the Union address, marked the first public hearing of an investigation into intelligence reports. Biden family business that Republicans have promised their hardline supporters. during last year’s mid-term election campaign.
The White House released a statement denouncing the hearing as “a bizarre political stunt” motivated by the denial of Biden’s electoral victory over Trump, who continues to falsely claim that his defeat was the result of fraud.
“America has witnessed a coordinated campaign by social media companies, mainstream news and the intelligence community to suppress and delegitimize the existence of Hunter Biden’s laptop and its contents,” said committee chair James Comer at the beginning of the proceedings.
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, denied in a statement any connection between his client and what he called the “so-called laptop,” including content that Republicans “claim is Mr. Biden’s personal data.”
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former chief of trust and security, testified that the team responsible for enforcing content rules was separate from Twitter staff involved in government relations.
He said Twitter was trying to avoid the kind of interference that occurred in 2016, when Russian officials allegedly hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computers and disseminated material through social media.
Twitter executives also said company policy has sought to mitigate content that could lead to political violence, such as what followed in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters .
“I’m here to tell you that doing nothing is not an option. If we keep doing nothing, violence will happen again,” said Anika Collier Navaroli, a former member of Twitter’s US security policy team.
Democrats expressed concern about witness intimidation after Republican Representative Anna Paulina Luna presented what she called evidence that Twitter and the federal government had acted jointly to censor Americans.
“It is highly illegal. You were all involved in this action. And I want you to know that you will all be held accountable,” Luna told witnesses.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, the panel’s top Democrat, urged members to keep in mind that Twitter is a private company with the power to choose its own content.
“It’s even more important now that we have members who are actually threatening witnesses with arrest and prosecution for clearly fictitious crimes,” Raskin said.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)