A former Twitter executive said that Twitter’s censorship promoted more speech on the social media site during a Wednesday congressional hearing.
“Twitter found that users were unhappy with the company’s approach to content moderation and that this … dissatisfaction drove people away from the service. This has consequences for what we mean by free speech on social media,” Yoel Roth, the former head of Twitter’s Office of Trust and Safety, told the House Oversight Committee. “Again and again, we saw the speech of a small number of abusive users drive away countless others. Unrestricted free speech, paradoxically, results in less speech, not more. It was our job in Trust and Safety to try to strike an appropriate balance.”
Roth’s statement came during a hearing investigating the social media site’s censorship, focusing on the company’s actions regarding an Oct. 14, 2020, report by the New York Post on the contents of a laptop abandoned by Hunter Biden. Twitter locked multiple accounts, including the Post’s and the personal account of then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, citing its “hacked materials” policy.
“Twitter made a mistake. Under the distribution of hacked material policy, the company decided to prevent links to the New York Post stories about the laptop from being shared across the service,” Roth, who resigned from the company in November, said. “I’ve been clear that, in my judgment, at the time, Twitter should not have taken action to block the New York Post’s reporting.”
Roth faced tough questions on other acts of censorship from multiple Republicans on the committee, including Republican Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the committee, who confronted Roth over a Tweet comparing former President Donald Trump to a Nazi.
“You permanently banned my Twitter account but you allowed child porn all over Twitter,” Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said to Roth during the hearing.
Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina called out the site’s censorship on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Why do you think you or anyone else at Twitter has the medical expertise to censor a doctor’s expert opinion?” Mace asked former Twitter Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde.
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