Republicans on the House Oversight Committee confronted several former Twitter executives on Wednesday about their censorship activism and election meddling — specifically the Big Tech company’s suppression of the New York Post’s legitimate reporting about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Twitter led Big Tech companies and corporate media in throttling the news of the Biden family’s deep corruption mere weeks before the 2020 presidential election. The decision, as the recent release of the “Twitter Files” under Elon Musk further exposed, was motivated by partisanship, not Twitter policy.
As Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer made clear at the beginning of the hearing, the oversight questioning on Wednesday was about exposing the relationship between Big Tech companies like Twitter and corrupt, partisan federal agencies like the FBI, which tried its best to kill scrutiny of the Biden family business ahead of the 2020 election.
“Twitter’s employees made censorship decisions on the fly, often not following the company’s own policy — publicly stated policies. It worked hand-in-hand with the FBI to monitor the protected speech of Americans receiving millions of tax dollars to do so,” Comer said. “Twitter, under the leadership of our witnesses today, was a private company the federal government used to accomplish what it constitutionally cannot — limit the free exercise of speech.”
Some Democrats tried to pivot the hearing away from its purpose by inviting surprise witness Anika Navaroli, a member of Twitter’s censorship team who was hailed as a hero after she helped the weaponized Jan. 6 Committee advance its anti-free speech agenda, to testify about Twitter’s need for more censorship.
Others, such as recently elected Democrat Rep. Maxwell Frost, even suggested the hearing was the result of GOP frustration about the 2020 presidential election results. According to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the hearing was a waste of time because it centered on a piece of “disinformation.”
The witnesses, former Deputy General Counsel of Twitter James Baker (who also used to serve as lead counsel for the FBI), former Chief Legal Officer of Twitter Vijaya Gadde (who was fired by Elon Musk shortly after he bought the company), and former Global Head of Trust & Safety of Twitter Yoel Roth, were all deeply involved in the decision to stop the story’s spread.
They may be former employees and they were under oath, but that didn’t stop Baker or any of the others from lying about the role they played in controlling dialogue in the public square.
Mistake or Calculated Strategy?
Right off the bat, Gadde and Roth both repeatedly stated that hindsight indicated the suppression of the New York Post’s legitimate reporting was a “mistake,” as former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also indicated in 2021.
Republicans weren’t buying it.
“There are mistakes that have been made and we keep looking back at these mistakes and say ‘oh that shouldn’t have happened that way. We are going to have a new policy to avoid that from happening again.’ But every mistake benefits one side,” Republican Rep. William Timmons said.
Roth admitted that while he initially disagreed with the assessment that the New York Post’s article violated Twitter policy, he deferred to higher-level executives such as his boss Del Harvey to make the final call.
“The company made a decision that it did violate company policy. It wasn’t my personal judgment at the time that it did. But the decision was communicated to me by my direct supervisor, and ultimately I didn’t disagree with it enough to object to it,” Roth said.
Roth’s manufactured regret about the company’s most infamous censorship decision wasn’t fooling anyone. Especially after he, with Democrat coaxing, expressed regret that conservative accounts like the influential Libs of TikTok still have access to the platform. It wasn’t the only time in the hearing the former Twitter censors suggested their previous attempts at shutting down users’ speech hadn’t gone far enough.
When he wasn’t stonewalling the questioning with accusations that Twitter denied him access to his old computer, Roth was complaining that former Twitter employees like himself faced harassment after the “Twitter Files” were released.
Baker, who played a key role in the FBI’s attempt to undermine former President Donald Trump via the Russian collusion hoax, similarly couched his testimony with claims that he was limited by nondisclosure agreements.
Musk fired Baker after he gave an “unconvincing” explanation for his “suppression of information important to the public dialogue,” which included reviewing the first round of the “Twitter Files” “without knowledge of new management.”
Yet, during the hearing, Baker still had the audacity to claim that he “did not destroy or improperly suppress any documents at Twitter.” He qualified his brazen and disproven statement by tacking on “regarding information important to the public dialogue” at the end, meaning information that he deemed important to the public conversation.
In his opening remarks, the former FBI lawyer also went so far as to claim that he erred on the side of “caution” when it came to handling the Hunter Biden laptop story.
“I did not act unlawfully or otherwise inappropriately in any manner with respect to Hunter Biden’s laptop,” Baker said. “Indeed, documents that Twitter has disclosed publicly reflect I urged caution with respect to the matter and noted that we needed more information to fully assess what was going on and to decide what to do.”
Documents uncovered in the “Twitter Files” also suggest that Baker aided in a domestic intelligence coup against Americans during the 2020 election by priming the lead censors at Twitter to discredit reporting on the Biden family business. The FBI, which was already aware of the laptop, had a classified briefing with Baker one month before the story broke (something Baker refused to admit to in the hearing).
Even though Baker’s former employer was aware of the veracity of Hunter’s laptop, Baker insisted that the contents violated Twitter’s policies. The FBI veteran sourced some of his skepticism from what he said were “reliable cybersecurity folks.”
Even when Roth said Twitter’s policies didn’t justify throttling the laptop story, Baker pushed for censorship.
Ultimately, even though Twitter never confirmed the material from Hunter’s laptop was hacked, Gadde gave the green light to block the link to the New York Post’s reporting.
Gadde confirmed that she gave the final word in Wednesday’s hearing.
“I ultimately approved that decision,” she said.
Censorship Lives On
Gadde had no excuses for why she couldn’t answer certain questions. That didn’t stop her from refusing to admit several proven things about Twitter’s censorship network.
Despite the clear evidence presented by several Republicans that Twitter damages the reach and obscures the content of conservative accounts with labels such as “search blacklists,” Gadde claimed Twitter’s only information suppression campaign is called “visibility filtering,” which “means something different” than shadow banning.
“You also said that Twitter does not shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology. Do you stand by those comments?” one committee member asked.
“While I was at Twitter, to the best of my knowledge, we did not do that,” she replied.
Gadde point-blank told users in 2018: “We do not shadow ban.”
Contrary to Gadde’s claims, the Dec. 8 installment of the “Twitter Files” revealed that “teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users.”
While conservatives are sidelined by secret and subjective censorship practices, Roth confirmed true and obvious violations of Twitter policies live untouched on the platform today.
Jordan Boyd is a staff writer at The Federalist and co-producer of The Federalist Radio Hour. Her work has also been featured in The Daily Wire and Fox News. Jordan graduated from Baylor University where she majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @jordanboydtx.