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WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – Former Twitter executives denied intentional wrongdoing Tuesday in their decisions relating to the story about presidential son Hunter Biden’s laptop amid several hours of largely circular questioning by the U.S. House Oversight Committee.

The hearing brought in former Twitter chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde, former deputy general counsel James Baker, former global head of trust & safety Yoel Roth, and former safety policy team senior member Annika Collier Navaroli to testify about the platform’s decision in October 2020 to censor a bombshell New York Post report about a computer Hunter had abandoned at a Delaware repair shop, containing scores of emails and texts detailing how the Biden family enriched itself through Hunter arranging meetings between his father, formerly the vice president of the United States, and business interests around the world.

The story has long since been vindicated (most recently by the younger Biden’s own attorney admitting the laptop was authentic), but at the time there was a concerted effort to discredit it as “Russian disinformation,” including Twitter censoring the Post’s original story under the claim it violated the platform’s “hacked materials” policy.

Gadde framed Twitter’s actions as an innocent mistake, testifying that the original censorship decision had been a good-faith effort to enforce the “hacked materials” policy, but “over the course of that day, it became clear that Twitter had not fully appreciated the potential impact of the policy on the free press and others,” and therefore “changed its policy within 24 hours and admitted its initial action was wrong.” But the platform did not unblock the Post’s account for another two weeks (because the paper refused to remove its original tweets), which Gadde admitted was erroneous.

Baker testified that he “was not aware of and certainly did not engage in any conspiracy or other effort to do anything unethical, improper, or unlawful” while at Twitter, that the Twitter Files released by new owner Elon Musk “reflect that I urged caution with respect to the [laptop] and noted that we needed more information to fully assess what was going on and to decide what to do,” and that he was “aware of no unlawful collusion with, or direction from, any government agency or political campaign” on what to do about the story.

Roth conceded that Twitter “made a mistake” in blocking the Post but insisted that the activity surrounding the story “at first glance, bore a lot of similarities to the 2016 Russian hack and leak operation,” and that Twitter “had to decide what to do” with the “only information we had to go on” at the time. He also claimed that the Twitter Files were misleading in that they show “a lot of discussions between Twitter employees and political staff on both sides of the aisle,” but not the fact that the staffers answering emails from political actors “did not have any kind of decision-making authority over policy enforcement.”

Navaroli testified that she was not involved in decisions about the laptop but maintained that Twitter’s leaders actually “bent and broke their own rules in order to protect some of the most dangerous speech on the platform” by former President Donald Trump, such as him telling the far-right group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” a statement the meaning of which was debated at the time, but occurred during a presidential debate, not on Twitter. Navaroli claimed it was a “dog whistle” necessitating the creation of Twitter’s “Coded Incitement to Violence” policy.

She also accused Twitter of changing its rules to not penalize Trump for tweeting that “The Squad,” a four-member bloc of far-left female, nonwhite Democrat House members, should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” which his critics called racist at the time, due in part to the fact that three of the four members were actually born in the United States.

Committee Republicans were largely skeptical of the witnesses’ testimony. Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona asked Roth if he consulted with cybersecurity experts on hacking claims, which he denied, saying he was relying on public commentary from cybersecurity figures in the media. Others asked Baker, who is a former FBI attorney, if he reached out to the FBI for what they knew of the laptop’s authenticity; he said he did not recall speaking to anyone at the Bureau about the matter. Gadde said she did not recall doing so either.

Roth’s apparent disinterest in checking with the FBI was met with skepticism from Rep. Kelly Armstrong, who noted that failure to do so seemed inconsistent with the FBI specifically telling Twitter to expect a leak that was actually “foreign disinformation” in the coming days. Roth denied that the FBI’s interactions with Twitter constituted “pressure.”

“I don’t think this passes the smell test,” Armstrong said.

The most forceful GOP grilling came from Republican Reps. Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. “You’re not a doctor, right, Ms. Gadde?” Mace asked. “What makes you think you or anyone else at Twitter have the medical expertise to censor actual, accurate, CDC data?” She went on to excoriate the officials for “censor[ing] Harvard-educated doctors, Stanford-educated doctors, doctors that are educated in the best places in the world, and you silenced those voices” for dissenting from the federal government’s conclusions on COVID-19 mitigation and treatment, such as prominent lockdown critic Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.

Greene, meanwhile, blasted the company’s former management for banning her account, which was not reinstated until Musk took over. “You can consider your speech canceled during my time because you canceled mine,” she said. “You abused the power of a large corporation — Big Tech — to censor Americans. I’m so glad you’ve lost your jobs.”

She also mentioned Roth’s 2016 Ph.D. thesis, highlighted by Musk in December, in which he suggested that efforts to deny minors’ access to online services such as the homosexual dating app Grindr were part of a “paranoid narrative.” Roth maintained that Greene had been restricted after disregarding repeated warnings about spreading “medical misinformation,” and Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California apologized to him for what he called Greene’s “homophobic rant.” Roth also claimed that Musk’s sharing of the story incited threats against him that forced him to change homes.

Committee Democrats disputed the significance of the laptop story and mocked the idea that Twitter had a liberal bias. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia attempted to cast Republicans as hypocrites, citing the fact that Donald Trump had, according to Roth, asked Twitter to delete a disparaging tweet about him by celebrity Chrissy Teigen. A new Rolling Stone article details “routine” requests from Republicans to have Twitter take down objectionable content.

Journalist Matt Taibbi, whom Musk enlisted to cover the Twitter Files, responded by noting that the Twitter Files had acknowledged from the start that such requests came from both parties, but that the scale of the requests was hardly comparable:

In November 2020, a survey of key swing states conducted by the conservative Media Research Center and The Polling Company weeks after the election found that 45.1% of Biden voters in those states had been unaware of the Hunter scandal, and that 9.4% of them would not have voted for Biden had they known. Last November, Rasmussen Reports found that 61% of Americans were supportive of House Republican efforts to investigate the Biden family.