Ex-Twitter execs admit blocking Hunter Biden story a mistake

(NewsNation) — Former Twitter executives conceded Wednesday that they made a mistake by blocking a story about Hunter Biden, the president’s son, from the social media platform in the run-up to the 2020 election.

The three former executives appeared before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee to testify for the first time about the company’s decision to initially block from Twitter a New York Post article about the contents of a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden.

“Today’s hearing is the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s first step in examining the coordination between the federal government and Big Tech to restrict protected speech and interfere in the democratic process,” Rep. James Comer, (R-Ky.), the chairman, said in his opening statement.

The witnesses Republicans subpoenaed to testify were Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former chief legal officer; James Baker, the company’s former deputy general counsel; and Yoel Roth, former head of safety and integrity.

“The decisions here aren’t straightforward, and hindsight is 20/20,” Roth testified. “It isn’t obvious what the right response is to a suspected, but not confirmed, cyberattack by another government on a presidential election.”

He added, “Twitter erred in this case because we wanted to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016.”

Despite admitting they made a mistake, the executives adamantly denied Republican assertions that they were pressured by Democrats and law enforcement to suppress the story.

Wednesday’s hearing was largely based on a batch of information dubbed the “Twitter Files” released by Twitter CEO Elon Musk after taking over the company last year.

The New York Post first reported in October 2020, weeks before the presidential election, that it had received from Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a copy of a hard drive from a laptop that Hunter Biden had dropped off 18 months earlier at a Delaware computer repair shop and never retrieved.

At first, Twitter reportedly blocked links to the article, saying it had material obtained through hacking. The decision was later reversed. Musk unveiled Twitter’s decision to delete tweets, some including nude pictures of Hunter Biden shared without his consent, after receiving a request from Joe Biden’s campaign.

Months later, Twitter’s then-CEO, Jack Dorsey, called the company’s communications around the Post article “not great.” He added that blocking the article’s URL with “zero context” around why it was blocked was “unacceptable.”

The tweets revealed in the thread largely showed internal debates among employees over the decision and lacked details of influence from Democrats. Nonetheless, it fueled outrage from GOP lawmakers, who are using their newly claimed House majority to dig into the debate.

Comer had accused Twitter of working together with the government to limit reporting of the Biden family’s business dealings and warned accountability is coming.

We’re going to talk to Twitter employees because I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about the laptop, and we’re going to talk about that laptop,” Comer said. “They’ve done extensive reporting on the hard drive. So we’re going to start with the hard drive, because there’s a lot of evidence on the hard drive that would suggest that Joe Biden knew very well what his family was involved in.”

Democrats may have their own set of questions for Gadde, Baker and Roth. Most of them are likely related to Musk’s takeover of the company and overall handling of misinformation online. 

Twitter, as well as other social media companies, has faced scrutiny on both sides of the aisle. Democrats have slammed Twitter over what they see as allowing too much misinformation and hate speech to spread on the platform. 

President Biden’s team and fellow Democrats continue to call this investigation a political stunt.

The Associated Press and The Hill contributed to this report.


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