Internal emails made public by CEO Elon Musk Friday reveal that a lobbying group for major tech companies including Twitter, Meta, TikTok, and Google, informed executives of the social media giant that a “blood bath” awaited them in congressional hearings over the company’s censorship of The Post’s Hunter Biden laptop expose.
Days after the story was published in October 2020, Carl Szabo, the head of NetChoice, told Twitter public policy chief Lauren Culbertson that his group polled 12 members of Congress, nine Republicans and three Democrats, from “the House Judiciary Committee to Rep. Judy Chu’s office.”
“High level take away – every Republican said ‘this is a tipping point. It’s just too much.’ And both Democrats and Republicans were angry,” NetChoice told Twitter officials on Oct. 14, 2020.
The trade association noted that lawmakers were frustrated that big tech companies had “grown so big that they can’t even regulate themselves, so government may need to intervene.”
Szabo also informed Culbertson that Twitter’s decision to censor the laptop story was being viewed as “tech’s Access Hollywood moment,” a reference to the jaw-dropping audio of then-candidate Donald Trump making lewd comments on the show “Access Hollywood” back in 2005 that was revealed weeks before the 2016 election.
“It’s tech’s Access Hollywood moment and it has no Hillary to hide behind,” Szabo wrote, quoting a congressional staffer.
“Tech is screwed and rightfully so,” another hill staffer told NetChoice, which Szabo passed along to Twitter.
Szabo also relayed that some Democratic lawmakers viewed Twitter’s action as anti-free speech, saying that some wanted “more” moderation and calling the Bill of Rights “not absolute.”
Also revealed Friday, one left-leaning Democratic congressman warned another top Twitter exec that it’s censorship of The Post’s expose was a clear “first amendment violation” that would “generate a huge backlash,” Elon Musk’s internal probe revealed.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) reached out to Twitter exec Vijaya Gadde, in the aftermath of its decision to censor the reporting, expressing his concern that the platform was suppressing free speech.
The communications between top Twitter officials and outside groups, including lawmakers, were revealed in a lengthy Twitter thread of information fed by Musk to independent journalist Matt Taibbi on Friday.
“Generating huge backlash on the hill re free speech,” Khanna said in an email to Vijaya Gadde, the former head of Legal, Policy, and Trust at Twitter.
Catch up on Twitter’s censorship of the Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story
Khanna offers to get on a call with Gadde and discuss the situation, but instead he receives a reply explaining Twitter’s policy on “hacked materials,” and nothing that would assuage the Democrat’s free speech concerns.
“We put out a clarifying thread on Twitter earlier this evening to explain our policy about the posting of private information and linking directly to hacked materials,” Gadde says in part of her email to Khanna.
“This seems a violation of the 1st amendment principles,” Khanna responds, more bluntly stating the concerns of some lawmakers.
Khanna echoed the sentiments shared with Gadde in a Friday night statement to The Post.
“I believe our Constitution and First Amendment are sacred. As the congressman who represents Silicon Valley, I felt Twitter’s actions were a violation of First Amendment principles so I raised those concerns,” said Khanna.
“Our democracy can only thrive if we are open to a marketplace of ideas and engaging with people with whom we disagree,” he added.