Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have begun hearings into social media censorship—notably with alleged tech censorship from Twitter.
- On Wednesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives House Oversight Committee grilled three former Twitter executives—chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde, deputy general counsel James Baker, and global head of trust and safety Yoel Roth.
- Congressional Republicans, led by Representative James Comer (KY), called the session “Protecting Speech From Government Interference and Social Media Bias, Part 1: Twitter’s Role In Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story.”
- They argued that Twitter’s treatment of the Hunter Biden laptop story was an example of social media being slanted towards Democrats, violating first amendment protections, and working with the FBI to spread narratives and censor political targets—as alleged by the Twitter Files.
- The former Twitter executives denied allegations against them, with Roth alleging that Twitter never took down tweets at the behest of the Biden administration. It merely received the requests and independently verified if they violated the terms of service.
- Baker defended the actions of Twitter, arguing there was “no unlawful collusion with, or direction from, any government agency or political campaign” in his testimony.
Why It’s News
As was alleged in The Twitter Files, members of Twitter removed links, blocked direct messages, and blocked the official account of the New York Post for posting links to a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, which could’ve affected the outcome of the 2020 election. The move was done without the approval of CEO Jack Dorsey, on the grounds that it constituted “hacked materials.” Gadde, Baker, and Roth allegedly proceeded, knowing that it violated the site’s terms of service.
Gadde admitted in her testimony that the company made a mistake in suppressing the story.
“In the runup to the 2020 presidential election, Big Tech and the Swamp colluded to censor reporting about the Biden family’s shady business schemes. Americans deserve answers about this attack on the First Amendment … Accountability is coming,” says Comer (R-KY).
As Axios notes, there is an outstanding disagreement between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of tech censorship. Republicans accuse Big Tech of being too censorious. At the same time, Democrats favor removing hate speech, foreign propaganda, and other forms of speech so long as it is done by a private company.
Democrats blasted the session as a waste of time meant to perpetuate conspiracy theories and relitigate the 2020 election. In a statement to The Hill, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) blasted the hearing as an “abuse of public resources,” alleging that the committee’s claims of first amendment violations were not met with any legislative arguments or solutions.
“Twitter is a private media company. In America, private media companies can decide what to publish or how to curate content however they want. The professional conspiracy theorists heckling and haranguing this private company have already gotten their precious apology. What more do they want? And why does the United States Congress have to be involved in this nonsense?” says Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD).