House Oversight Panel Calls on Twitter Officials to Testify on Censorship of Hunter Biden Laptop Story

The House Oversight Committee has asked former Twitter executives to testify at a hearing next month on the platform’s censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story in October 2020.

At the time, Twitter banned the New York Post’s story on the laptop under its “hacked materials” policy.

Now, committee chairman James Comer (R., Ky.) has asked former Twitter officials Vijaya Gadde, Yoel Roth and James Baker to testify about the decision.

“On December 6, 2022, I wrote to you requesting your appearance at a Committee hearing during the 118th Congress. Your attendance is necessary because of your role in suppressing Americans’ access to information about the Biden family on Twitter shortly before the 2020 election,” Comer wrote in letters to each of the three former officials on Wednesday.

“This letter reiterates the Committee’s request and — for your convenience in planning travel — informs you of the hearing date, which will be the week of February 6,” Comer added.

Comer told the three officials they must reply by January 18. The committee can vote to compel them to appear if they do not respond to the request.

The decision to block the Hunter Biden report was made without the knowledge of former CEO Jack Dorsey, according to journalist Matt Taibbi’s “Twitter files” reporting.

“They just freelanced it,” a former Twitter employee reportedly told Taibbi of Twitter’s reasoning for censoring the story. “Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it.”

At the time, Trenton Kennedy, former U.S. policy communications manager at Twitter, pressed Gadde and Roth for answers. Gadde served as Twitter’s head of legal, policy, and trust, while Roth was the platform’s trust and safety chief.

“I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this unsafe, and I think the best explainability argument for this externally would be that we’re waiting to understand if this story is the result of hacked materials,” Kennedy wrote to senior staff. “We’ll face hard questions on this if we don’t have some kind of solid reasoning for marking the link unsafe.”

Twitter CEO Elon Musk said last month that he had fired Baker, Twitter’s deputy general counsel, in response to concerns “about Baker’s possible role in suppression of information important to the public dialogue” after internal Twitter emails published by Taibbi revealed Baker was involved in discussions about whether the laptop story could be banned under the platform’s “hacked materials” policy.

“I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked,” Baker wrote at the time in response to a Twitter executive who asked if the site could “truthfully claim” that the laptop story was “part of the policy.”

“At this stage, however, it’s reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted,” Baker added.

Baker was the FBI general counsel in 2016 and 2017, at which point he served as a top adviser to then-director James Comey through several controversial investigations and decisions, including the bureau’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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