'They better be retaining lawyers': Ex-Twitter execs face GOP gauntlet as Musk exposes old regime

Latest "Twitter Files" dump calls into question former CEO's testimony under oath that Twitter doesn't "shadow ban." Jim Jordan's Judiciary Committee plans to investigate ex-FBI Twitter lawyer's communications with bureau ahead of 2020 election.

Published: December 9, 2022 4:37pm

Updated: December 9, 2022 11:21pm

Republican lawmakers are calling for hearings and criminal inquiries amid the steady release of government emails and internal Twitter communications suggesting a coordinated effort to squelch disfavored narratives on COVID-19 and elections and mislead Congress about the nature and extent of Twitter's content moderation decisions.

Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) called on Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to hold a hearing on Big Tech censorship in light of the "Twitter Files" that new owner Elon Musk is sharing with independent journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss.

The first batch shows Twitter's process for censoring the New York Post's Hunter Biden laptop expose was "haphazard at best," with multiple employees questioning the "hacked materials" policy basis, Wicker told Cantwell Thursday. It's clear now that "Twitter coordinated with a presidential campaign and [the Democratic National Committee] to suppress speech."

Senate Democrats can continue to block hearings even with the surprise defection Friday of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who said she won't caucus with Republicans. Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock's runoff reelection victory gives Democrats 50 seats even if Sinema doesn't caucus with them either. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said former Twitter Trust and Safety Head Yoel Roth, who quit two weeks after Musk's completed purchase, "flat-out lied" in an affidavit to the Federal Election Commission about not communicating with Democrats or the Biden campaign to censor reporting on Hunter Biden's laptop. 

The FEC accepted Twitter's explanation that it blocked "potentially hacked content" from the laptop "for bona fide commercial reasons" and to enforce its policies. The Twitter Files show the company had no concrete basis to believe the materials were hacked.

Roth "and everyone who lied under oath, they better be retaining lawyers" in the face of "real civil and criminal jeopardy," Cruz told Fox News. He's "working closely" with House Republicans to "haul these people before Congress to testify under oath" about their prior representations when the GOP takes over next year.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) told Cowboy State Daily she thought the Twitter Files show "government wrongdoing."

The House Oversight Committee should "investigate why the Hunter Biden laptop was alleged to have been a Russian-generated falsehood," Lummis said. 

The "accumulation of accusations pointed at the FBI's Washington, D.C., bureau" is also worthy of "serious investigation by Congress," she said, apparently referring to the recent deposition of FBI agent Elvis Chan in the federal-Big Tech collusion lawsuit by Missouri and Louisiana.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is taking the House Judiciary Committee gavel next year, told Fox News Friday the Twitter Files may not even be complete because "the guy vetting the release of this information is the same guy" who was a key player in the FBI's now-discredited Trump-Russia investigation.

Musk fired Deputy General Counsel James Baker, who was previously FBI general counsel, Tuesday for covertly reviewing the first batch of the Twitter Files before they were given to Taibbi, the journalist said. Baker's explanation for doing so was "unconvincing," Musk tweeted.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley dubbed Baker "the Kevin Bacon of the Russian collusion scandals," who brought "the same signature bias that characterized the Russian investigations" when Twitter hired him in 2020.

"I really want to talk to" Chan, the recently deposed FBI agent, about the weekly briefings he led with social media companies ahead of the 2020 election, Jordan told Fox News. "Was Jim Baker the guy he was briefing? ... I want to know how cozy that was."

Jordan promised that Republicans will work to "fully expose everything" when they take the majority next year. He wants to know if any of the 51 ex-intelligence officials who called the laptop Russian disinformation on the eve of the 2020 election were talking to Baker at Twitter.

The latest batch of Twitter Files, reported Thursday night by Weiss, suggests then-CEO Jack Dorsey at best resorted to semantic hairsplitting when he told Congress in a 2018 hearing that Twitter did not surreptitiously limit the reach of right-of-center politicians and influencers, colloquially known as "shadowbanning."

Legal policy chief Vijaya Gadde also told the public in a 2018 blog post that Twitter doesn't shadowban and "certainly" not on the basis of "political viewpoints or ideology," but defined the practice as hiding rather than limiting the reach of tweets. Dorsey later affirmed that claim.

Weiss' materials show that Stanford medical professor Jay Bhattacharya, a coauthor of the anti-lockdown Great Barrington Declaration, and Chaya Raichik, who runs the conservative Libs of Tik Tok account, appeared on a "trends blacklist" that limited their tweets' reach through "visibility filtering." 

"Did @jack lie to Congress?" Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) tweeted, tagging Dorsey's account. Prominent conservatives, including Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell, also accused Dorsey of perjury. 

The purported "conspiracy theorists" were right, presumptive incoming House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) tweeted. "Twitter did blacklist/suppress accounts their leftist employees disagreed with & manipulated trends against conservatives ... They can’t get away with this."

Jordan compared Twitter's internal labels on conservative accounts to the "threat tags" the FBI put on investigations of parents who protested school board meetings last year.

Roth, Gadde and Dorsey also served on the secret "Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support" committee, which made moderation decisions for the most sensitive accounts.

Weiss posted a memo showing the committee admitted Raichik didn't directly violate its "hateful conduct" policy, the basis of her multiple suspensions. But it recommended a weeklong "timeout" because Raichik's stated views on "gender affirming" care for minors led to "harassment" of hospitals that perform mastectomies and genital removals.

Twitter support refused to remove a tweet with a photo of Raichik's home and her address, however.

Supporters of Twitter's old regime have responded to the releases by downplaying their relevance or personally mocking Weiss, Taibbi and Musk.

"It's not a secret that Twitter limits the spread of accounts that have violated their content policy," New York University's Center for Social Media and Politics said in sharing Weiss' thread.

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