April 22, 2024

WASHINGTON — House Republicans summoned former Twitter executives on Wednesday to respond to allegations that the social media platform sought to silence right-wing voices, but hours of hearings revealed the company’s failure to limit hate speech or material that could incite violence new situations, sometimes changing its own rules to avoid doing so.

The Oversight and Accountability Committee holds a hearing to investigate a wrong decision the company has admitted to for years: Blocking an unverified New York Post article about President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, in the 2020 election The former was active in Ukraine, where his father was running for President Donald J. Trump.

“Twitter actively suppresses conservative elected officials, journalists and activists,” said Rep. James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the oversight panel.

But the meeting also served as a forum for Democrats to air their concerns about the company’s practices. They accused Twitter of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, including by changing internal rules to allow Mr. Trump to keep posting until the riots.

“Twitter and other social media companies served as the primary organizing and rallying point for the violent uprising against Congress and the vice president on Jan. 6,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, who is also a member of the House investigation. Commission on the 6 January attacks.

Here are some highlights from the hearing:

Anika Collier Navaroli, a former Twitter executive who served as a whistleblower during the Jan. 6 investigation, recalled an incident in 2019 when a White House official tried to convince the company to Delete a tweet by model Chrissy Teigen. After Mr Trump called her a “dirty mouth”, she insulted him with vulgar words.

Ms Teigen tweeted that Mr Trump was ‘pussy ass bitch’ as ​​he avoids labeling her in demeaning posts“It’s an honor, Mr. President,” she added.

Ms. Navaroli testified that the White House contacted Twitter about removing Ms. Teigen’s post.

“They want it to go down because it’s a derogatory statement against the president,” she said.

Ms. Navaroli added that Twitter routinely evaluates tweets to see if they contain more than three insults before judging whether they cross the line. Twitter declined to delete Ms Teigen’s tweet.

Ms. Navaroli also testified that Twitter changed its rules to avoid adding labels to some of Trump’s tweets that would have been deemed in violation of the company’s rules. Some of the posts denigrated a group of liberal congresswomen of color dubbed “The Squad.”

In 2019, when a tweet by Mr. Trump called on lawmakers to “go and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested place they came from,” Ms. Navaroli’s team said it violated one of Twitter’s internal rules , which bans the demonization of immigrants and the phrase “go back to where you came from.”

But when she reported the breach, Ms. Navaroli testified that a Twitter executive turned her down. Shortly thereafter, the company changed its policy, removing the phrase “go back to where you came from” from its internal rules against speech, she said.

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“So Twitter changed its policy after the president violated it to potentially accommodate his tweets?” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. the conspicuous member asked.

“Yes,” Ms Navaroli replied.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez responded: “There is so much bias against the right on Twitter.”

Ms. Navaroli testified that she was “at her wit’s end” when Twitter executives refused to intervene as Mr. Trump’s rhetoric escalated through Jan. 6.

She said her team created a “coded incitement to violence” policy to censor accounts, but Twitter executives refused to approve it.

“On January 5th, with the policy still not approved, I chaired a meeting where one of my colleagues asked management if someone had to be shot before we were allowed to delete the tweet,” she testified. “Another colleague reviewed the live tweets and read them to management to try to convince them of the seriousness of the problem. Still no action.”

After Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and wounded more than 150 police officers, Ms. Navaroli asked management “whether they wanted more blood on their hands.”

Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has admitted to Congress that the company was wrong to ban the Post article, and on Wednesday the former executive said again that the company should not have done so.

But former executives have testified that while the decision was partly in response to warnings from the FBI about possible Russian misinformation, the administration did not directly pressure the social media platform to block the article, something Republicans have suggested. core allegations.

James Baker, Twitter’s former deputy general counsel, testified: “I am aware that no government agency or political campaign has been in dispute with any government agency over what Twitter should have done with Hunter Biden’s laptop. or political campaigns illegally colluded with or instructed them.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he believed Twitter executives had been looking for reasons to censor the article before the election because they were biased. He cited a tweet by an executive comparing members of the Trump administration to “Nazis.”

“I think you’re being played on,” Mr. Jordan said, adding: “I think you want to cancel it. I think you’re being played by the FBI.”

Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter, testified that he had to sell his house and move after he became the target of online harassment.

Mr Ross resigned from Twitter within weeks of Elon Musk buying the company in October. After he wrote an opinion column for the New York Times critical of Musk’s strategy, his internal emails became the focus of so-called Twitter documents, a series of media reports based on Twitter documents Musk directed the company to provide to several reporters.

The release of the Twitter document indicates that the platform took advice from the FBI and other government officials about the content moderation issue that led to the online harassment of Mr. Roth.

During the release of the Twitter documents, the personal information of other former Twitter employees was also shared online, leading to more harassment, Mr Ross said.

“These are the consequences of this harassment and speech,” he said.

Luke Broadwater Reporting from Washington, and Kate Conger from San Francisco.

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