On Wednesday morning, former head of trust and safety at Twitter Yoel Roth testified before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, admitting that the Hunter Biden laptop story, which was widely censored after the New York Post broke the story, did not violate Twitter policies.
Rep. Andy Biggs grilled Roth, asking, "Mr. Roth, within just mere minutes or hours after the New York Post published its story on the Hunter Biden laptop, at 8:51 am you sent a message to a team, part of your team, I assume, and you said 'it isn't clearly violative of our hack materials policy,' referring to the story, 'nor is it clearly in violation of anything else.' Do you remember sending that message?"
"I don’t recall that message specifically, but that does sound like my judgment on that day, yes," Roth responded.
Biggs continued, noting that shortly after, former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnaney was locked out of her Twitter account.
Biggs continued on, stating that Carolyn Strom made an inquiry demanding to know what was happening, to which she received the reply that McEnaney was "bounced by site integrity for violating our hacked materials policy.
Biggs, citing Twitter employee Trenton Kennedy, said, "'I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for me marking this unsafe. And I think the explainability argument' — now, that may be a technical term for you, but for me, it looks like we’re trying to create a narrative here to cover our butt — 'the best explainability argument for this externally, will be that we’re waiting to understand that this story is the result of hacked materials.'"
"And so then we get into a whole series of things written by [Jim] Baker going back and forth, and he says, on that same day now at 9:26, which is about half an hour after your statement that you don’t think that anything’s been violated here, he says, 'I've seen some reliable cyber security folks questioned the authenticity of the emails in another way.'"
Biggs noted that Roth sent out a message after Baker’s message, stating that "the key factor in forming our approach is consensus from experts monitoring election security and disinformation, that this looks a lot like a hack and leak that learned from the 2016 Wiki Leaks approach."
Biggs then asked Roth if he could name any of these so-called experts that reached a consensus that morning.
"Twitter did not give me access to any of my documents or emails to prepare for this hearing. And so unfortunately, I can't give you a direct answer," Roth responded.
"Were there experts, were there people that you consulted, that were cybersecurity experts between 9 am and 10:15 am On that day?" Biggs asked.
"My recollection is that we were following discussions about this incident as they unfolded on Twitter. So cybersecurity experts were tweeting about this incident and sharing their perspectives and that informed some of Twitter's judgment here. But I want to emphasize, as I said in my statement, I didn't think that the evidence or those perspectives warranted removal, and I advocated against taking that action," Roth responded.
Citing another document, Biggs said, "Our teams made the determination that the materials fall under our hacked materials policy," adding that it was his understanding that normally a hacked material policy violation would require a government official or law enforcement determination that the materials were in fact hacked.
Biggs asked if that was an accurate understanding, to which Roth said it was not.
"So the policy did not require that there be any kind of official finding by the government by a government source?" Biggs questioned.
Roth replied that there are "a number of different types of evidence" that could be considered under the hacked materials policy, but added that "certainly government attribution would be a powerful one."
Biggs interrupted, stating, "that wasn't determinative is what you’re saying."
"In that instance, we did not have any specific information from any government source, no," Roth replied.
Reading from another document, Biggs said, "This might be an unpopular opinion, but one-off ad hoc decisions like this that don't appear rooted in policy are, in my humble opinion, a slippery slope and reflect an alternatively equally dictatorial problem."
"Quite frankly, that's what the essence of all four of your testimony — I realize you're trying to fight against it — but you exercised. You exercised an amazing amount of clout and power over the entire American electorate by even holding them hostage for 24 hours reversing your policy and then hold it — and then they're like, well, we want to go back to the originals. That's 24 hours or two weeks, that you imposed your will on the American electorate," Biggs concluded.
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