House Republicans have announced that they will request testimony from top Twitter employees to the Congress about their handling of Hunter Biden’s New York Post report. This is a signal that congressional probes into digital content moderation are likely to be a prominent focus of their next Congress.
Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, was the top Republican, and is likely to become the next chairman of House Oversight Committee. He wrote to three people who were reportedly key in the decision to temporarily suspend the Post’s story just weeks before the 2020 election. He asked them to talk about “Big Tech’s control over free speech and information sharing.”
The letters were addressed to Vijaya Gadde Twitter’s former head for legal, policy, and trust; Yoel Rot, the former site integrity lead; James Baker deputy general counsel. They request that the three individuals testify before a full, public committee hearing at the next Congress. CNN reached out to each of the three individuals in order to obtain comment.
Each recipient is warned that the letters “have been identified to suppress information regarding President Biden’s family before an American election.”
Jessica Collins, spokesperson for the committee, said that subpoenas could be issued to the individuals. She also stated that former employees and current employees are expected to cooperate.
Collins stated that the Committee was ready to use all tools available to ensure cooperation and transparency for American citizens.
The letters from Comer come just days after Matt Taibbi, a journalist, reported on Twitter’s internal communications showing three officials discussing how to handle the Post article. Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk promised that the records would reveal “what actually happened” within Twitter on that particular day.
Taibbi presented evidence suggesting that the Post story suppression effort was coordinated. The reported records mostly confirm the existing accounts of the incident. They show how Twitter’s legal and policy employees dealt with the decision and face questions from communications staff about how they can explain it to the public. They also supported Roth’s public statements that Twitter believed the Post report was the result of a Russian hack-and-leak operation. This is consistent with the general warnings that US law enforcement had given to the company about foreign election meddling. Roth also stated in December 2020 sworn testsubmitted by the Federal Election Commission, that there were rumors of a hack and leak operation involving Hunter Biden in meetings with law enforcement.
Taibbi reported that Twitter employees were cautious in suppressing the Post article out of fear of spreading what they thought could be hacked materials. This was followed by internal debate about the best course. Taibbi said that he had not found any evidence of government involvement in Hunter Biden’s story. There has been no evidence to date that the Post story contained material from Russia.
Taibbi stated that he was provided with the internal communications by “sources at Twitter” and that he accepted a few conditions from Twitter to be able to report on them.
In separate testimony before Congress, Jack Dorsey, then-Twitter CEO, acknowledged that the decision was a mistake. Roth later echoed these remarks, confirming that it was a mistake. Roth also stated that the Post story “didn’t reach a point where I was comfortable removing it from Twitter.” (Taibbi reported Dorsey wasn’t aware at first.