The House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing to dig into why Twitter suppressed the New York Post‘s reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop. The executives involved have already admitted the decision — made because they believed it violated the platform’s hacked materials policy — was a mistake. Nevertheless, Republicans are determined to convince Americans that Twitter was in cahoots with the Democratic Party to prevent the story from hurting Biden ahead of the 2020 election.
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) tried to prove it on Wednesday by grilling Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of public trust and safety, about why a Twitter employee wrote that they “handled” a request from Biden’s team to take down certain posts. The posts in question, as has been widely reported, were nonconsensual nude photos of Hunter Biden.
“The email is very clear: ‘More to review from Biden team.’ The response three hours later: ‘Handled these,’” Donalds said while gesturing to a giant poster board with URLs that had linked to images of Hunter Biden’s penis. “What does ‘handled these’ mean?’”
“My understanding is that these tweets contained nonconsensual nude photos of Hunter Biden, and they were removed by the company under our terms of service,” Roth replied. Donalds interrupted to question Roth about how he knew the URLs linked to revenge porn, to which Roth explained that there had been “extensive public reporting” about what the tweets contained.
Roth: “My understanding is that these tweets contained nonconsensual nude photos of Hunter Biden” pic.twitter.com/SKiT285H67
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 8, 2023
The internal communications Donalds showcased were first revealed after Elon Musk selectively leaked material to allied journalists who had accused Big Tech of working with the Democratic establishment. The “Twitter Files” threads that resulted mostly included previously known information about the platform’s content moderation practices. Matt Taibbi, who published the first installment, pointed to emails showing Twitter honoring requests from Biden’s team as a smoking gun that the platform’s moderation decisions were political, but researchers soon discovered that the tweets in questions were revenge porn that violated the platform’s policy.
Roth explained all of this on Wednesday, noting that the moderation team worked independently of the teams that interfaced with political campaigns. The moderation team, according to Roth, would simply review requests from campaigns to determine if the flagged material violated its policies. If it did, they would remove it. Pictures of Hunter Biden’s penis posted without his consent certainly qualified, to Donalds’ dismay.