In explosive testimony on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee, former Twitter top executives said they did not reach out to the FBI in October 2020 to seek verification of the New York Post’s reports about the infamous abandoned Hunter Biden laptop. That was the case even though they were deeply intertwined with the agency at the same time regarding its efforts to “combat foreign election interference.”
Instead, Twitter relied on “Russian disinformation experts” tweets to guide its decision to censor the explosive and now-verified story about the laptop’s contents.
The new hearings were scheduled at the direction of new House leadership since Republicans retook the majority in the lower chamber and elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) last month.
Committee member Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) questioned the former Twitter global head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, to explain the process that led to the censorship of the laptop story. Biggs forced Roth to admit he had told staffers that “the key factor informing our approach is consensus from experts monitoring election security and disinformation that this looks a lot like a hack-and-leak operation.”
Roth said the “experts” he consulted were accounts he was following on the platform. “Cybersecurity experts were tweeting about this incident and sharing their perspectives, which informed some of Twitter’s judgment here,” he admitted.
He failed to identify the “experts” he said the company relied upon in deciding to censor the laptop story.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) also tore into Roth, asking: “After 2016, you set up all these teams to deal with Russian interference, foreign interference, having regular meetings with the FBI, you have connections with all of these different government agencies, and you didn’t reach out to them once?”
Roth admitted he did not, saying he thought it would not “be appropriate.”
He also admitted that just weeks before the Post’s story ran, he participated in an exercise conducted by the Aspen Institute. Twitter and other media outlets formulated responses to a “hack and leak October surprise involving Hunter Biden.” Garrett Graff headed up the exercise.
Graff subsequently posted a script for media outlets to follow immediately after the laptop story broke. In addition, he offered guidance for reacting to what he called “Biden-Burisma crap.”
Several other “experts” joined in the Twitter conversation initiated by Graff in a way that made it apparent it was likely the entire narrative had been planned out well in advance. The story was quickly denounced as “disinformation” made up of “false Fox/Giuliani talking points.”
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) February 8, 2023
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) also took a turn grilling Roth. She explained she recently learned from current Twitter staffers that if a member of Congress was to be shadowbanned before billionaire Elon Musk acquired the platform, the decision had to go directly through Roth.
The Colorado Republican said she had been shadowbanned by Roth for three months due to a joke she made about Hillary Clinton wishing she could have rigged the 2016 election.
Boebert demanded Roth explain “who the hell do you think you are” by secretly trying to censor a U.S. Congress member.
The firebrand representative also told the executives: “I bet that Putin is sitting in the Kremlin wishing he had as much election interference as you four here today.”