Former Twitter executives were grilled at a congressional hearing on Wednesday over the censorship of a New York Post story on President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and the contents of his laptop.

The House Republican majority is investigating Twitter over its content moderation process, which the GOP claims was tainted by political bias and involved pressure by government agencies like the FBI. Former Twitter executives admitted that suspending the Hunter Biden story was an error on their part but claimed there was no government involvement in the decision.

Republicans claimed Twitter censored the story purposefully to prevent Joe Biden from losing votes in the 2020 election that was only weeks away. Many in the GOP have accused social media platforms of suppressing information to protect the Biden family.

Twitter accused of colluding with the FBI

Former Twitter executives admitted they could have been more transparent about how they made content moderation decisions. Yoel Roth, former head of trust and safety at Twitter, spoke in the hearing about his interactions with the government, but said final decisions were made by company officials. He also said the company could have done more to communicate with the public.

“Transparency is at the heart of this work, and it’s where I think Twitter — and all of social media — can and must do better.” He continued, “Trust is built on understanding — and right now, the vast majority of people don’t understand how or why content moderation decisions are made.”

Once Elon Musk took the reins as CEO of Twitter, he decided to share with the public how company decisions were made on the Hunter Biden story. In early December, Musk tweeted: “What really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter will be published on Twitter at 5pm ET!” Followed by, “this will be awesome.”

At the hearing, Roth and James Baker, Twitter’s former deputy general counsel, claimed the company did not collude with the FBI on taking down the link to the Hunter Biden article. Roth said the FBI gave no detail on whether or not the laptop was hacked or fake, and there was no communication with the FBI on limiting the spread of the New York Post article about the laptop.

“Moreover, I am aware of no unlawful collusion with, or direction from, any government agency or political campaign on how Twitter should have handled the Hunter Biden laptop situation,” said Baker, who was also once the top attorney for the FBI.

Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, questioned the executives’ responses. “I think you guys wanted to take it down, and I think you guys got played by the FBI,” he said.  

While Roth said he did not agree with the suppression of the New York Post article, he defended Twitter’s actions. “Our judgment was colored by the experience of 2016 and by the very real Russian activities we saw play out that year,” he said. “But this isn’t a case where I was right, and others were wrong. The decisions here aren’t straightforward, and hindsight is 20/20.”

The laptop and the 2020 election

Other members of the committee questioned Twitter’s role in suppressing the information right before the 2020 election, and expressed their disbelief in the claim that the FBI didn’t have anything to do with removing links to the New York Post article. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., accused Twitter executives of taking the article down to “suppress and delegitimize” the story in order to protect Biden’s campaign during the heat of the presidential campaign.

“Twitter, under the leadership of our witnesses today, was a private company the federal government used to accomplish what it constitutionally cannot: limit the free exercise of speech,” said Comer.

“America witnessed a coordinated campaign by social media companies, mainstream news and the intelligence communities to suppress and de-legitimize the existence of Hunter Biden’s laptop and its contents,” Comer said, also claiming Twitter “worked hand-in-hand with the FBI to monitor the protected speech of Americans, receiving millions of dollars to do so.”

Democrats call hearing ‘silly’ and unproductive to voters

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, top Democrat on the committee, said the hearing was a waste of time, and said Republicans were trying to “whip up” a scandal on an issue regarding a privately owned company, something that is not a top concern of voters.

“The majority has called a hearing to revisit a two-year-old story about a private editorial decision by Twitter not to allow links to a single New York Post article made for a two-day period that had no discernible influence on anyone or anything,” Raskin said. “Instead of letting this trivial pursuit go, my colleagues have tried to whip up a faux scandal about this two-day lapse in their ability to spread Hunter Biden propaganda on a private media platform. Silly does not even begin to capture this obsession.”