San Francisco (California) [US], February 9 (ANI): Former Twitter executives told lawmakers on Wednesday that the social media company had erred when it temporarily suppressed a New York Post story regarding Hunter Biden's laptop in October 2020, but the officials emphasised that there was no government involvement in the decision, according to CNN. Hunter is the son of President Joe Biden.
Republicans grilled the social media executives - including former Twitter deputy counsel James Baker - over Twitter's handling of the laptop story and broader complaints about censorship at the first high-profile hearing in front of the House Oversight Committee for the new Republican majority investigating President Joe Biden's administration and family.
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's former chief legal officer, also testified that, looking back, Twitter should have immediately reinstated the New York Post's account after the company reversed its decision to block the Hunter Biden story, CNN reported.
While Twitter's new owner and CEO Elon Musk has suggested that the internal communications released as part of his so-called "Twitter files" show government censorship - suggesting Twitter acted "under orders from the government" when it suppressed the laptop story - the executives told Congress they did not receive any requests from the government to temporarily suppress the story, according to CNN.
Twitter's former Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth testified there was a lot of confusion over how to handle the story amid an increased emphasis on tackling misinformation - specifically from malign foreign actors - on their platform, according to CNN.
"It isn't obvious what the right response is to a suspected but not confirmed cyberattack by another government on a presidential election," Roth said. "I believe Twitter erred in this case because we wanted to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016."House Oversight Chairman James Comer - a Kentucky Republican who has launched a broad investigation into the Biden family's business dealings - is probing the social media giant in the wake of Musk releasing internal communications from Twitter staff about the decision to temporarily block users from sharing the New York Post story in the closing weeks of the 2020 presidential election campaign season, according to CNN.
The "Twitter files" have fuelled Comer's belief that the government may have been involved in the suppression of the story.
"America witnessed a coordinated campaign by social media companies, mainstream news and the intelligence communities to suppress and de-legitimized the existence of Hunter Biden's laptop and its contents," Comer said, adding that Twitter "worked hand-in-hand with the FBI to monitor the protected speech of Americans, receiving millions of dollars to do so."CNN has previously reported, however, that allegations the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) told Twitter to suppress the story are unsupported, and a half-dozen tech executives and senior staff, along with multiple federal officials familiar with the matter, all denied any such directive was given in interviews with CNN.
"I am aware of no unlawful collusion with, or direction from, any government agency or political campaign on how Twitter should have handled the Hunter Biden laptop situation," Baker said in his opening statement. "Even though many disagree with how Twitter handled the Hunter Biden matter, I believe that the public record reveals that my client acted in a manner that was fully consistent with the First Amendment."According to CNN, the Twitter executives argued that the social media platform made mistakes in its handling of the New York Post story, but emphasised that the heightened focus on combating disinformation complicated the company's decision-making process. (ANI)