On Thursday, journalists Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi appeared before the House Judiciary Committee hearing, which was led by Jim Jordan. The subcommittee was investigating the Federal Trade Commission's treatment of Twitter and had called upon the two journalists for their coverage of the Twitter Files.
Tensions between the media and government agencies were brought to the forefront, as concerns were raised about the handling of sensitive information. Social media platforms, including Twitter, were a key focus of the discussion, with many questioning their role in disseminating false information and polarizing public opinion.
The journalists accused US government agencies of “digital McCarthyism” based on revelations provided through the Twitter Files, which showed efforts by the federal government to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of Americans through censorship.
The hearing was held following Jordan's release of an 18-page report, which included excerpts of letters from the FTC to Twitter. Jordan accused the FTC of "harassing Twitter" and "silencing Musk" through partisan pressure.
As detailed by Rebel News, the FTC has been investigating Twitter since before Musk bought the company and recently demanded that Twitter reveal the names of all journalists who have been given access to internal communications. The probe was triggered by a whistleblower complaint that Twitter had violated a 2011 settlement that imposed privacy safeguards.
In his testimony, Shellenberger said the Twitter Files “revealed a large and growing network of government agencies, academic institutions and nongovernmental organizations that are actively censoring American citizens, often without their knowledge on a range of issues.”
Taibbi said the Twitter Files showed a “sweeping effort” for the government to “use machine learning and other tools to turn the internet into an instrument of censorship and social control,” adding, “Unfortunately, our own government appears to be playing a lead role.”
“We learned that Twitter, Facebook, Google and other companies developed a formal system for taking in moderation requests from every corner of government, from the FBI, the DHS, the HHS, DOD, the Global Engagement Center at state, even the CIA,” he added.
“Ordinary Americans are not just being reported to Twitter for deamplification or de-platforming,” he said, “but to firms like PayPal, digital advertisers like Xandr and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe.”
During the hearing, Democrat Rep. Stacey Plaskett pressed Taibbi and Schellenberger about how they had verified the authenticity of the internal Twitter emails and instant messages.
The journalists had revealed through their investigations that Twitter had worked with government agencies, including the FBI, to suppress conservative voices on the platform.
Taibbi responded to Plaskett's suggestion that he was a "so-called journalist" by listing his achievements, which included winning the National Magazine Award, the IF Stone award for independent journalism, and writing 10 books, including four New York Times best-sellers.
Taibbi refused to disclose his sources when Plaskett asked him about them, and when she suggested that his findings represented a subjective selection of information, he replied that the same could be said of any news story.
Jordan chastised Plaskett for trying to force a journalist to name sources, which Plaskett denied doing.
"First the FTC is asking for your backgrounds, and now the ranking member on the Committee on the Weaponization of Government is asking for your sources," Jordan said.