Top Oversight Republican Presses Twitter on Its Censorship of Certain News
WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) today condemned Twitter’s censorship of a negative New York Post article about Joe Biden and called on CEO Jack Dorsey to provide information on Twitter’s censorship policy that discriminates against certain news and not others. Earlier today, Oversight Republicans requested an emergency hearing on Big Tech’s election interference.
“Twitter tamped down circulation of the article and limited its ability to be shared with the American people. In doing so, Twitter benefited one candidate for President at the expense of the other,” wrote Ranking Member Comer. “Such Orwellian tactics are the opposite of how Twitter has responded during other major news cycles over the past several years.”
Twitter claims it censored the New York Post article under its “hacked materials policy” without providing any evidence the materials were hacked. In the letter, Ranking Member Comer notes that Twitter did nothing to limit the spread of the New York Times article regarding President Trump’s taxes despite the questionable legality of the Times obtaining the records. He also notes that false rumors about Brett Kavanaugh swirled on the platform during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing with Twitter taking no action then. Ranking Member Comer calls on Twitter to provide links that Twitter has blocked under its “hacked materials policy” and what steps, if any, Twitter took to verify the accuracy of the New York Post article, the New York Times article, and rumors about Brett Kavanaugh.
Below is the full text of the letter.
Dear Mr. Dorsey:
Yesterday the New York Post published an article discussing alleged emails showing Hunter Biden may have introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to an executive from Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm which was paying Hunter Biden tens of thousands of dollars per month. If true, this narrative raises questions about whether Joe Biden lied to the American public about using his position as Vice President to help his son’s Ukrainian business dealings.
Shortly after its publication the article began to circulate and be retweeted on Twitter. Such activities are not uncommon when breaking news occurs. Yesterday, however, Twitter responded very differently than it had in past instances where important stories had been published by major media outlets. Despite yesterday’s article being placed in the fourth-largest newspaper in the United States, Twitter unilaterally decided to mark the story as “potentially unsafe” and blocked it. Twitter also “temporarily locked White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s account, as well as the New York Post’s, adding notices to their tweets saying they violated Twitter’s rules on prohibiting publishing hacked materials.” After the New York Post article was blocked, Twitter then suppressed an official press release from the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee that reposted the article and blocked users from tweeting the link.
Though you later acknowledged blocking the article without context was “unacceptable” and the company’s communications surrounding its actions was “not great,” Twitter tamped down circulation of the article and limited its ability to be shared with the American people. In doing so, Twitter benefited one candidate for President at the expense of the other.
Such Orwellian tactics are the opposite of how Twitter has responded during other major news cycles over the past several years. Recently, the New York Times published a series of articles regarding President Trump’s taxes. Despite the suspect legality of the Times obtaining the tax records and writing about them, Twitter took no steps to limit dissemination of the article on its platform. During the hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018 rumors swirled about on Twitter with suspect veracity—all later to be proven false. Yet Twitter took no steps then, either, to limit dissemination of such rumors on its platform.
Perhaps even more troubling, Brandon Borrman, Twitter’s vice president of global communications, claimed Twitter took these steps under its “hacked materials policy,” without providing any evidence the materials were the result of a hacking. Borrman even claimed Twitter had “blocked links before under the policy, but did not specify when.”
Therefore, please provide a list of all links Twitter has blocked on its platform from January 1, 2019 to the present. In addition, please provide answers to the following questions:
- What, if any, steps did Twitter take to verify the accuracy of yesterday’s New York Post article before blocking its URL and locking certain accounts?
- What evidence, if any, does Twitter have that the emails mentioned in yesterday’s New York Post article were hacked?
- What, if any, steps did Twitter take to verify the accuracy of the September-October 2020 New York Times articles regarding President Trump’s taxes?
- Was there any discussion within Twitter leadership about the New York Times article falling under Twitter’s rules on prohibiting publishing hacked materials?
- What, if any, steps did Twitter take to verify the accuracy of the myriad rumors surrounding Brett Kavanaugh shared on Twitter in early September 2018?
I look forward to receiving your responses in this matter no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 16, 2020.