EXCLUSIVE: One of the heads of a technology policy lobbying group is speaking out after documents released as part of Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ dump showed his group warned Twitter that a ‘bloodbath’ awaited the company in Congress over its suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Internal emails recently made public by Musk and reported by independent journalist Matt Taibbi as part of the much publicized ‘Twitter Files’ aimed at providing transparency on Twitter censorship in the past showed messages from NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo warning Twitter public policy chief Lauren Culbertson that his group polled 12 members of Congress about the Hunter Biden story and that both sides of the aisle were upset about how Twitter was handling the bombshell revelations.
‘NetChoice lets Twitter know a ‘blood bath’ awaits in upcoming Hill hearings, with members saying it’s a ‘tipping point,’ complaining tech has ‘grown so big that they can’t even regulate themselves, so government may need to intervene,’’ Taibbi reported.
Taibbi continued in the first installment of the Twitter Files: ‘Szabo reports to Twitter that some Hill figures are characterizing the laptop story as ‘tech’s Access Hollywood moment.” He went on to say that ‘Szabo’s letter contains chilling passages relaying Democratic lawmakers’ attitudes. They want ‘more’ moderation, and as for the Bill of Rights, it’s ‘not absolute,’’ he said of Democratic lawmakers positions.
Szabo spoke exclusively with Fox News Digital about his interactions in these crucial moments.
‘At the time of the Hunter Biden laptop story, they began just kind of talking to us about their concerns, about the things they didn’t like about the decisions that were being made, and one of the things we do at NetChoice is we let our members know what we’re hearing, that’s part of our job and almost responsibility to our members,’ Szabo told Fox News Digital.
Szabo said that he was surprised his company’s communications were included in the files but says they ‘stand by’ everything that was reported.
‘We made crystal clear to Twitter that if they continue to engage in suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story that there will be investigations, that there will be a lot of questions and concerns coming from Republicans, and we were likely to see that play out as soon as Republicans take the gavel in the House in January.’
Szabo says the Twitter file release has ‘brought to light’ the exact concerns his company has been ‘talking about for many many years.’
‘Government, whether overtly through legislation controlling First Amendment speech, or covertly as we see in the Twitter Musk release, has engaged in trying to control speech online, and we have for several months now and we will continue advocating for legislation protecting free speech from government interference,’ Szabo explained. ‘And make it crystal clear that whether its Republican or Democrat or anyone else in government, that they need to work for all the American people, not just a political party, and this type of government-compelled speech and government coercion can not be allowed anymore.’
While Szabo acknowledged that he would have preferred his personal email not have been part of the data release, he expressed the opinion that Musk is doing good work to ensure that transparency is brought to the social media platform.
‘He’s taken on quite a task, he is redirecting Twitter in a hopefully upward trajectory,’ Szabo said. ‘Musk has a pretty long history of turning businesses around. … He’s got a pretty good track record so far.’
‘I think what he does with Twitter will be very interesting, and this I think was a kind of an important step in that transition to regain the trust and kind of air the dirty laundry that has raised so much concern, so much concentration amongst Americans and conservatives alike, but we can’t stop there.’
Szabo says that recent developments have shown ‘quite a trail’ of ‘government engagement and coercion with social media and free speech platforms’ and that he has been encouraged that several Republicans have taken the issue seriously.
‘We are seeing activity in Congress by people like Rep. Jim Jordan, like Rep. [James] Comer and [Cathy] McMorris Rodgers to advance legislation to make crystal clear that the federal government cannot and must not engage in this type of coercion of social media platforms,’ Szabo said.
‘Because at the end of the day, whether I as a conservative, whether I as a Republican, whether I as an American get frustrated with the social media content moderation decision, that’s one thing. I can quit Twitter and quit Facebook, but it is a wholly different thing when the President of the United States uses his bully pulpit to force private businesses to say speech that he wants and remove speech that he doesn’t like.’
Musk has continued to release files showing internal communications and censorship by Twitter employees over the past week, including a release on Friday that confirmed conservative Twitter accounts were shadowbanned despite the company claiming otherwise.
Musk has also released files showing how the company moved to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story regarding the president’s son’s overseas business dealings leading up to the 2020 election as well as communications with outside actors, including the Biden campaign, when controversial tweets from conservatives were flagged.
The White House on Friday categorically denied any involvement in Twitter’s content-moderation decisions, despite former White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying last year that the White House was ‘in regular touch with social media platforms’ to flag ‘problematic’ posts that ‘spread disinformation’ on COVID-19.
‘It’s up to private companies to make these type of decisions,’ White House press secretary Jean-Pierre insisted. ‘We were not involved. I can say that we were not involved.’