Republican-led U.S. House panel probes Twitter block of Hunter Biden story

  • In Politics
  • 2023-02-08 16:58:51Z
  • By Reuters

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives sought to deliver on a campaign promise to their most hardline supporters on Wednesday, with a public hearing on a laptop computer said to belong to Democratic President Joe Biden's businessman son, Hunter.

Even before the proceedings began, the White House denounced the hearing as "a bizarre political stunt" motivated by denial of Biden's 2020 election victory over Republican former President Donald Trump. Trump continues to claim falsely that his defeat was the result of fraud.

A day after Biden offered to work with Republicans on some of the nation's toughest problems in his State of the Union address, the House Oversight Committee heard former Twitter executives testify under subpoena about the social media platform's efforts to limit discussion of the laptop's alleged contents two weeks ahead of the 2020 election.

Hunter Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell has denied in a statement any connection between his client and what he called the "so-called laptop," including contents that Republicans "allege to be Mr. Biden's personal data."

The hearing marked the first public proceeding of an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings led by committee Chairman James Comer, who has accused Hunter Biden of leveraging his father's political influence to pursue lucrative international business deals.

"This appears to be the latest effort by the House Republican majority's most extreme MAGA members to question and re-litigate the outcome of the 2020 election," White House spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement.

The proceedings focused on Twitter's decision to temporarily block tweets about a New York Post article on the laptop, which the former Twitter executives said they mistakenly believed contained hacked material.

Republicans described the decision as part of a conspiracy to suppress revelations about Hunter Biden and his father ahead of the 2020 election, saying it coincided with a letter by former intelligence officers describing the laptop as Russian disinformation.

"America witnessed a coordinated campaign by social media companies, mainstream news and the intelligence community to suppress and de-legitimize the existence of Hunter Biden's laptop and its contents," Comer said.

Representative Daniel Goldman said Comer had presented no evidence to support his claim that Joe Biden was involved in Hunter Biden's business dealings.

"I hope that you are not abusing the power as chairman of this committee and that you are not wasting taxpayer dollars on a fishing expedition into a civilian child of a president for political purposes," Goldman told Comer.

The former Twitter executives acknowledged that blocking the New York Post tweets was an error and said they reversed the decision within 24 hours.

They said Twitter sought to mitigate content that could lead to political violence, such as what later occurred in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump's supporters.

"I am here to tell you that doing nothing is not an option. If we continue to do nothing, violence is going to happen again," said Anika Collier Navaroli, a former member of Twitter's U.S. safety policy team.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene lashed out at the former Twitter executives for banning her personal Twitter account until last November.

"You abused the power of a large corporation - Big Tech - to censor Americans," said Greene, accusing the former executives of mounting a campaign against conservatives. "I'm so glad you've lost your jobs."

Yoel Roth, Twitter's former head of truth and safety, said the company banned Greene's account because she "repeatedly violated Twitter policies about sharing misinformation about COVID-19" despite multiple written warnings.

The social platform has since been purchased by billionaire Elon Musk, who many Republicans view as a champion of free speech.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)


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